“Song of Napalm” is a free-verse poem of forty-five lines divided into five stanzas. The title is ironic: “Song” suggests something lovely and lyric, while napalm, on the other hand, is a deadly, incendiary jelly that the United States military dropped on villages during the Vietnam War. When dropped as a bomb, napalm ignites, and the burning jelly sticks to its victims and burns them to death. Because of the title, the reader knows that Bruce Weigl will once again be exploring the Vietnam War, a subject he treats frequently.
The opening stanza presents an idyllic scene of a pasture after a storm told in the past tense. Because the poem is dedicated to the poet’s wife, it is easy to assume that the two people watching as horses “walk off lazily across the pasture’s hill” are the poet and his wife. However, the image, although pastoral, also contains the germ of foreboding: The narrator stares through a “black screen,” he describes the grass as “scarlet,” and he associates tree branches with barbed wire. The image of the barbed wire seems to propel the poet into the flux of past and present in the next stanza. The storm has passed, and he asserts that he has “turned [his] back on the old curses.” However, his belief is mistaken; in the first line of the third stanza, he shifts to the present tense although he describes a scene from the distant past. The thunder from the storm becomes a “pounding mortar” in his flashback,...
(The entire section is 401 words.)