By using the second person, this poem makes us feel like we are personally witnessing this private exchange between a husband and wife when the husband returns from Vietnam. He has earned a silver star, so he was brave. He is still somewhat haunted by the war.
The first image is in the use of the phrase “I caught you” (line 1). This brings the image of her watching him when he doesn’t realize it, as he faces the aftermath of war. Although she goes on to darken the image, the tone is actually uplifting.
That deep, black,
Glistening, searing stare (lines 7-8)
He is expressing a secret self-hatred, a direct result of having killed in an unpopular war. All wars involve killing, but in Vietnam there was not a strong sense of moral righteousness as in previous wars. The image is powerful for its use of the dark words “black” and “searing.” This contrasts with her reaction.
I caught you,
And I love you,
For letting it happen. (lines 12-14)
Despite the darkness she sees in him, the fact that she has seen it makes her feel closer to him. She feels like, without knowing it, he has let her in. She knows that he is facing pain. Now she has seen it, and they can move on with the process of healing.
YES, this is what happen, back in Dec (at Xmas) 1968. I was in Vietnam in 1967 to 1968. We met at Thanksgiving NOV 1968.
She had known some of my deepest darkest secrets.
I married her in July, 1968. Vietnam was a long time ago!!!
AND My answer to her:
Faces of Vietnam
Ken Wolfe. 03-29-2012.