Sometime in the second half of the twentieth century,
a little before the U.S. involvement
in Vietnam, at an age when I still ran away
from suspense
to a sofa just out of sight of the TV
to bounce till I
could bear it,
bamboo meant World War II,
someplace steamed
in the South Pacific,
Alec Guinness limping upright
from a blistered three-foot
box, surrounded by sunspots
and jointed jungle.

How strong, by comparison, were the timbers used
by his troops to span the River Kwai–
even the Allied whistle carrying
no reedy wheedle–

How we thrilled at the buttoned brittleness
of the Brit, awed by the nobility of that
conspicuous backbone, all those eon-
forged vowels–my brother wired
to the one comfy chair, me caught
upon the carpet (unable even
to flee to far sofa safety), as we stared
through the flicker of that
yellow-green wood, a genus grown only
in the land of Holly–

Of course, poor Alec was nearly bamboozled–it was our
compatriot, the surly Yank,
William Holden, engulfed in brown wade
and incipient love handles, who knew the true score–
that war was not about building bridges
or character, but about detonators, destruction, lots
of bang, boom, shrapnel.

“Madness,” says the doctor character through
the smoke, but “greatness,”
is what we thought.


Here’s a  draft poem  for Hannah Gosselin’s prompt on With Real Toads about bamboo.  Sorry for the length.  I call it a draft because the poem has gone through a million iterations and I still am not getting what I want!  I’m also afraid it may be incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen The Bridge On the River Kwai, a movie made in 1957, directed by David Lean, and starring Alec Guiness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa.

The movie takes place in a WWII prison camp in Burma in which the Japanese overguards force the Allied soldiers to build a bridge for a supply route.  Guinness plays a British Colonel focused on maintaining standards (and morale).   The pic is a frame from the move, all copyrights belong to the owner (and no infringement intended.)

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11 Comments on “Bamboo”

  1. hedgewitch Says:

    Great movie–I’ve seen it many times, but couldn’t give back this level of detail and insight–and you as always do really well with the child/adult voice–I love the bouncing therapy, that yellow green wood of Holly, and the ‘reedy wheedle;’ all that whistling gave a homey touch to a very grim tale, all masked in stiff upper lip and payback. Good stuff, k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes, it is terribly grim. I was reading today about the Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa–I think was his name. He had quite an incredible life– an extraordinary person really. (He was great in the film.) Thanks as always for your kind comment. k.

  2. I’m really glad you brought out this perspective, Karen. It’s an important one to shed light on. Thank you

    I could feel the gut bunching-anxiety in the scenes that you portrayed.

  3. vandana Says:

    some memories get attached to some special stuff and whenever we see it,,,we remember those memories

  4. brian miller Says:

    interesting…i know i have seen the movie but remember little of it beyond little snippets here and there….nice word play around Holly wood….movies are def much different than they once were….

  5. grapeling Says:

    that wood of Holly lies (and that word is not used lightly) about 60 miles from me. also, my sister shares that name and she also, unfortunately, can be described by those two successive words. even if fragmentary, this piece has many excellent images, and conveys that sense of child-like uncertainty and wonder, if I am understanding it. a good new year to you, Karin ~

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Agh! Thanks you, M. That used to be a very pretty area, I think, and hope it is still beautiful. Thanks for your good wishes–same to you. I found your piece about your father very moving, thank you. k.

      On Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 12:58 PM, ManicDDaily

  6. Mama Zen Says:

    You make this so real. I love the bouncing behind the safety of the couch. The contrast with the war is very effective.

  7. Lindy Lee Says:

    Good, very good…

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