I Asked Dad If There Were Viet Cong Witches

Birds are dying all over North America I make a margarita.
Three green water-crisis limes, California.
Future people with Valley Accents on fire Lol starving, eating grubs.
And how should I be held accountable?
I’m in the classroom, teaching English.
When I will be as dead as birds, I’ll all be
elemental, talc & brook, and maybe my hair
in the Atlantic maybe under Denny’s, I’m at my altar
a medicine of objects a blue shell
from Puerto Rico or this feather from I forget where.
My dad talks about two young girls he killed in Vietnam
at Denny’s Sunday night coffee a bottle of pills
that only cost him a few dollars from the VA
heart pills, high blood pressure pills, blood thinners
cause his real blood would kill him.
I think his pills should go to those girls in Vietnam.
He says the first girl had a collapsible razor-box inside her.
When he pissed at the medical base in Da Nang,
piss goes in three different directions he shot her
as she was running away   her body      pro     pelled          into bamboo
from the impact.
She was just dangling there, a puppet in the jungle.
That image really makes him chuckle.
In war, they move you, like numbers across a checkbook.
Sometimes I have English students from Vietnam.
Afterward, fill my tank
89 unleaded $2.54 a gallon Iraq Circle K.
Our movie stars are losing their minds.
Loss of creatures, water, languages Merry Christmas.
I’m in an I-10 hotel Arizona.
Gideon Bible. Neon saguaro.
When I taught English in China, everyone was wearing bluejeans.

“Did you pull your mind away from Him?”
Until, he’s hung
and symmetrical, then how many of us
trade in our Feminism. Whose shirt is this? Winona Rider’s
stolen shirts.
The second woman he kills is more “accidental”.
He mistakes the back of a mother holding her baby
for a male Viet Cong sympathizer.
The bullets go through them both. He never brings it up again.
Military training video of
Viet Cong getting blown
apart eyes blown
out, like wicks.
I don’t no
how to talk to this poem another school shooting, Townville, SC.
It appears I have a lot to say about You.

The money around us makes us
hard to hear, animals in a forest fire.
If money has a lover, who is it? 
I think it’s Women, even our dead ones.

Wyatt Welch

Three Questions for Wyatt

What is the significance of this work to you ("I Asked Dad if There Were Viet Cong Witches" and "Lilith, Arizona")?

I've always loved geography and maps. I'd navigate them when I lived on the road with my father in our van. My old life from these times pop in to visit my poems: Ozona, Texas; Palm Springs, California. I love that it's town first, comma, then state. I like the two words like that together. We all come from somewhere. Places are essential to being human, but they don't belong to us: they are just a part of who we are. The Vietnam War really fucked my father up. The killings he partook in, him watching friends rupture and shatter in agony. They were traumatized and spent to protect the rich’s investments, and I’m rather angry about that.

I pit the figure of the Witch against the State throughout my poems. We Witches are, by our natures, enemies to such authority, authorities capable of orchestrating the familiar horrors. People scrape the surface and think Witches are only Nature Worshipers, but it’s disobedience that decides the Witch—to resist community, dictionary, even our own biologies. Disobedience is virtuous and ungodly. This is why we wear black shoes to the Circle; this symbolism is obviously necessary. To gather the Shadows of Womankind is mutiny, and it’s ancient. Lilith is a territory into which you do not fully step—not out of fear, but reverence to the claim, Her claim. There is a real place in the Universe of no-trespass. I have come to learn this. These two poems are engaging with this knowledge.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I err on what feels right visually for a poem. Many say that poems are to be read out loud, but I disagree. How the poem looks on the page interests me more. I’d much rather see them hem and haw across a page than hear them out loud—I make exceptions, of course, but a rebel verb journeying out from the stanza, a tasteful font, the anxiety of line against margin are, to me, the most engaging structures of poems. In "Lilith, Arizona," I experienced what I’ll describe as an echo-fight between a lily-like being and its own Dark Matter—something like bargaining with your gender, I guess. And so, the poem created a schism within its own psychological form, like so many of us do in our 30’s.

What was the process for creating this work?

I’ve thought very much about how Men’s hegemony employs and consumes Women. In "I Asked Dad If There Were Viet Cong Witches," I was mulling over the experiences my father had had with women in Vietnam—often ending in sex, in murder, or both. The hilarity with which he would tell these stories made me hate him. He got off on acting unremorseful, like assholes enjoy doing, but I had seen evidence to the contrary—his nightmares, his tears, his wandering rage. One day, when I was a child, I asked him if he had seen any Witches in Vietnam, if he had experienced any powerful women. I won’t bore you with his answer, but my question to him became the source of this poem. When I engaged further into the question, I came to understand that it was conducting its own kind of investigation. I still think about those young women, those girls he killed. All these years later, and I still don’t know how to mourn them.

Wyatt Welch grew up on the Interstates after being kidnapped by their father. Watching the boundaries of Self and the State has been the work of their recent poetry, alongside other poetic concerns such as living gay/transgender in the United States. Their recent work has been published in Aired, deLuge Literary and Arts Journal, the Metric, Mantra Review, the Ocotillo Review, Persephone's Daughters, Anacua Literary Arts Journal, and the Tucson Weekly. Welch earned their MA in Linguistics and African Languages at the University of Florida. Currently, Welch lives in Tucson, Arizona, where they teach at the University of Arizona and impart revolutionary, feminist Witchcraft at Dry River Witches' Shoppe.

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