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Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems

Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems

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by Bruce Weigl

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With Song of Napalm, Bruce Weigl established himself as a poet of incomparable power and lyric fury, whose work stands as an elegy to the countless lives dramatically altered by war. Archeology of the Circle brings together the major work of one of America’s greatest poets. Collected here for the first time from eight volumes of poetry and spanning two decades,


With Song of Napalm, Bruce Weigl established himself as a poet of incomparable power and lyric fury, whose work stands as an elegy to the countless lives dramatically altered by war. Archeology of the Circle brings together the major work of one of America’s greatest poets. Collected here for the first time from eight volumes of poetry and spanning two decades, Archeology of the Circle also includes Weigl’s most recent poems, which take a dramatic turn toward a hard-bitten and sensuous lyric. Out of the horror of individual experience, Bruce Weigl has fashioned poetry that offers solace to disillusionment and bears transcendent resonance for all of us. Archeology of the Circle illustrates Bruce Weigl’s remarkable creative achievements and signifies his own personal and spiritual salvation through his writing.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first five volumes covered in Weigels Archeology (1976s Executioner to 1988s Song of Napalm) dwell on Weigls firsthand experiences of Americas southeast Asian war, returning obsessively to combat terror, witnessed atrocities and cravings for underaged prostitutes. However laudable his brutal honesty, lines like I was barely in country soon become tiresome. Weigls best poems come from his three 1990s volumes (particularly from After the Others, represented in Archeology with selections marked as New Poems) where he begins to distill his themes of disgust and horror within non-Vietnam contexts. Weigls most grimly powerful poems, all found in Archeology, are The Impossible, an account of being forced, as a seven-year-old boy, to perform oral sex on a strange man, and The Nothing Redemption, a disgusting vision of a young man whose hole/ was plastered closed with his own excrement in an attempt to disqualify himself from military service. Snowy Egret (from 1985) and Carp (a more pressurized rhyme sonnet from 1996s Sweet Lorain) are convincing documents of regret for mindless boyhood destruction of animal life. The complex and unsettling Pineapple (appearing in both volumes) is a recollection of a womans seductive behavior in a supermarket fruit aisle; tinged with lust and violence, it somehow reaches its dark climax in the narrators refusal to respond to the womans advances. That poem and other notables in After the Others (such as the squalid The Singing and the Dancing and the desperate Anniversary of Myself) make that book the most consistently rewarding effort from this still evolving poet. (May)

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


There's a man standing
in a coop,
his face is wet,
he says he's too old:
"You can't give them away
they just come back."
I follow him to the cellar.
Latin blessings on the wall,
sauerkraut in barrels,
he puts his arm around my waist
begins to make a noise,
pigeons bleeding.
We're both crying now
he moves his tongue around
pulls feathers from his coat.
A fantail he says,
the kind that hop around,
don't fly well.



In Vietnam I was always afraid of mines:
North Vietnamese mines, Vietcong mines,
American mines,
whole fields marked with warning signs.

A bouncing betty comes up waist high—
cuts you in half.
One man's legs were laid
alongside him in the Dustoff:
he asked for a chairback, morphine.
He screamed he wanted to give
his eyes away, his kidneys,
his heart ...





I am you are he she it is
they are you are we are.
I am you are he she it is
they are you are we are.
When they ask for your number
pretend to be breathing.
Forget the stinking jungle,
force your fingers between the lines.
Learn to get out of the dew.
The snakes are thirsty.
Bladders, water, boil it, drink it.
Get out of yourclothes:
You can't move in your green clothes.
Your O.D. in color issue clothes.
Get out the damp between your legs.
Get out the plates and those who ate.
Those who spent the night.
Those small Vietnamese soldiers.
They love to hold your hand.
A fine man is good to hard.

Back away from their dark cheeks.
Small Vietnamese soldiers.
They love to love you.
I have no idea how it happened,
I remember nothing but light.


I don't remember the hard
swallow of the lover.
I don't remember the burial
of ears.
I don't remember the time
of the explosion.
This is the place curses are
manufactured: delivered like
white tablets.
The survivor is spilling his bed pan.
He slips one in your pocket,
you're finally satisfied.
I don't remember the heat
in the hands,
the heat around the neck.
Good times bad times sleep
get up work. Sleep get up
good times bad times.
Work eat sleep good bad work times.

I like a certain cartoon of wounds.
The water which refuses to dry.
I like a little unaccustomed mercy.
Pulling the trigger is all we have.
I hear a child.


I dropped to the bottom of a well.
I have a knife.
I cut someone with it.
Oh, I have the petrified eyebrows
of my Vietnam monkey.
My monkey from Vietnam.
My monkey.
Put your hand here.
It makes no sense.
I beat the monkey with a sword.
I didn't know him.
He was bloody.
He lowered his intestines
to my shoes. My shoes
spit-shined the moment
I learned to tie the bow.
I'm not on speaking terms
with anyone. In the wrong climate
a person can spoil,
the way a pair of boots
slows you down ...

I don't know when I'm sleeping.
I don't know if what I'm saying
is anything at all.
I'll lay on my monkey bones.


I'm tired of the rice falling
in slow motion like eggs from
the smallest animal.
I'm twenty-five years old,
quiet, tired of the same mistakes,
the same greed, the same past.
The same past with its bleat
and pound of the dead,
with its hand grenade tossed
into a hooch on a dull Sunday
because when a man dies like that
his eyes sparkle,
his nose fills with witless nuance
because a farmer in Bong Son
has dead cows lolling
in a field of claymores
because the vc tie hooks
to their comrades
because a spot of blood
is a number
because a woman
is lifting her dress across
the big pond ...

If we're soldiers we should smoke them
if we have them. Someone's bound
to point us in the right direction
sooner or later.

    I'm tired and I'm glad you asked.


There is a hill.
Men run top hill.
Men take hill.
Give hill to man.


Me and my monkey
and me and my monkey
my Vietnamese monkey
my little brown monkey
came with me
to Guam and Hawaii
in Ohio he saw
my people he
jumped on my daddy
he slipped into mother
he baptized my sister
he's my little brown monkey
he came here from heaven
to give me his spirit imagine
my monkey my beautiful
monkey he saved me lifted

me above the punji
sticks above the mines
above the ground burning
above the dead above
the living above the
wounded dying the wounded
dying above my own body
until I am me.


Men take hill away from smaller men.
Men take hill and give to fatter man.
Men take hill. Hill has number.
Men run up hill. Run down hill.

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Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
AnnBKeller More than 1 year ago
Bruce Weigl, who grew up in Lorain County, Ohio, provides a graphic testament to the horrors of war. It is difficult enough to capture the nightmarish images of Vietnam on a few pages, much less compress them into verse. Every word must be chosen with care. It can be as searing as a blast of napalm or as deadly as a trip wire held in an old man’s teeth. This book of poetry captures the Vietnam era in great detail, but it also hints at the triumph of the returning soldier. Blending back into normal life was difficult for these returning GIs. For some, the struggle proved insurmountable. For others, the task took decades. Within these pages, we catch a glimpse of a man caught in this time of conflict and change. Sobering and memorable read.