Andrena Zawinski


I see the prose poem as a poem in prose form, and not simply poetic prose. I employed the form for "Hell, You Can Tell" because it frames the narrative memoir well. It also allows the poetic rhythm to drive it along and the imagery to sustain it as poetry while unencumbered by line breaks or stanzas.





Hell, You Can Tell

          -- at Chiodo's Bar in Homestead, PA after reading for the Writers Harvest at the Rainbow Kitchen


Johnny's been to Nam and back. Hell, you can tell. His fatigues are not street chic. It's clear from here at the bar when he barks, You been over there, to Southeast Asia? spying a red-headed bird on your bluejean patch. You can tell as he rails,You protest the War? and when spilling over with explanations to disarm this situation, offering up your name, he grumbles back with Hanoi Jane.

You can tell. You can tell by the slick half-moon blade track that rings his throat from ear to ear, shrapnel specks atwitch in the tick at the crow's feet at his eyes. He says he can tell you about mountains and paddies, desk MOS's and grunts, the VA Hospital for home, the Wall as a tombstone. He tells you, This is my life, all that I have--a record from juvie, ninth-grade education, my own kids calling me crazy, a little dope, some smoke, this affliction called post-traumatic stress syndrome.

You can tell. You can tell he has tanks rolling over his dreams. You can tell there are incoming rotors beating night winds, mortars storming that firecracker sky, thin reeds flaming the fields, guerrillas drumming his bed with bamboo flutes and chimes, and his running tab with the rest of the out-of-work mill hunks at a corner bar in Homestead, you stationed at his side, someone who once protested the War and writes poems he won't read. Johnny's been to Nam and back. Hell, you can tell.



435569-1183823-thumbnail.jpgAndrena Zawinski's poetry has previously appeared in the ekphrastic and form issues at poemeleon and appears widely in print and online. Zawinski lives and teaches writing in Oakland, CA. She is Features Editor at