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W. D. Ehrhart

W. D. Ehrhart, a former Marine sergeant and veteran of the Vietnam War, holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Wales, where he did his dissertation on American poetry of the Korean War. He is author of 14 books of prose and poetry, and editor or coeditor of four anthologies, and has been publishing regularly in VQR since 1980. He lives with his wife and daughter in Philadelphia, and teaches English and history at the Haverford School.


The Orphan

After awhile, he gave up waiting, rose from beside his parents' grave, looked once more at the town unfolding down below like somebody's dream of a perfect place to rise above, or leave behind, church bells chiming the hour of darkness, close to home [...]

Tugboats on the Delaware

Imagine your car parallel-parked on a major thoroughfare. Think of someplace familiar. You've been to a movie or visiting friends, but when you return to your car, you discover that two other cars have parked really close to your front and rear bum [...]

“What Grace is Found in So Much Loss?”

It would not be unreasonable to assume," I wrote in a 1985 essay called "Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War" (published in VQR, V. 63, No. 2, Spring 1987), "that by this time whoever among Vietnam's veterans was going to surface as a poet would by no [...]

No Facts, Only Perceptions

Us. By Wayne Karlin. Henry Holt. $22.50. The most persistently nettlesome legacy of the Vietnam War is the belief that U.S.servicemen missing in action (MIAs) are still alive in Southeast Asia. So powerful is this belief that no U.S.president sinc [...]

Finding My Old Battalion

What we came here to find was never ours. After the miles we've traveled, after the years we've dreamed if only we could touch the wound again, we could be whole, no small wonder to discover only a lethal past between us, what we thought a brotherhoo [...]

After the Latest Victory

I call the sea. The wind calls back. No seagulls' cries, no sailors' ghosts, not mermaids, God, nor any human voice disturbs the silence closing hard behind the last reverberations of that solitary cry. Does sound just die? Or does the universe rever [...]

A Common Language

Writers are the engineers of the soul. General Tran Van Tra Ho Chi Minh City June 24th, 1990 "I was born in 1949," Le Minh Khue began quietly. "That is to say I'm one year younger than W.D. Ehrhart. In wartime, he served with a rifle [...]

An Indomitable Poetic Spirit

The Genre of Silence. By Duncan Bush. Poetry Wales Press. Distributed by Dufour Editions (P.O. Box 449, Byers Rd., Chester Springs, PA 19425). $14.95 paper. In 1937, with the Soviet Union firmly in the grip of Joseph Stalin, the Yezhovshchina or G [...]

For Mrs. Na

Cu Chi District 28 December 1985 I always told myself, if I ever got the chance to go back, I'd never say "I'm sorry" to anyone. Christ, those guys I saw on television once: sitting in Hanoi, the cameras rolling, crying, blubbering all over the place [...]

Last Flight Out From the War Zone

for Bruce Weigl A long flight back—I, too, fear the flight more than anything— and then we'll be humping the boonies again, stalking the past for a sign. Isn't it strange how it never ends? I like your resolves—clear and neat like a compass and [...]


A dry spring after an April that promised better: funny, the way the weather seems to be drier now than what we always remember. We draw the Delaware River down to cover the difference, build a new power plant, cover our pastures with houses, wonder [...]

Soldier-Poets of the Vietnam War

In the spring of 1972, a slim volume of poems appeared called Winning Hearts and Minds (First Casualty Press), its title taken from one of the many official slogans used at various times to describe the American pacification and relocation program [...]

Why I Did It

I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1966. 1 was 17 years old. Under what was called a delayed enlistment program, I actually signed the enlistment contract two months before I finished high school, though I didn't leave for boot camp ( [...]

Drawbridges on the Delaware

Autumn 2002 | Essays

Norcross, 37, is not hardhearted. It's only that if you operate a drawbridge on a navigable waterway in the United States, the First Commandment is unambiguous: thou shalt open the bridge when the ship gets there. You don't ask the ship to wait. You don't wait for the ship to hit your bridge. You open the bridge, period. The First Commandment is a matter of federal law: the Regulation of Drawbridges Act, passed in 1894, gives waterborn traffic right of way over highway traffic. It's also a matter of practicality: ships don't have brakes; it can take a mile or more to neutralize the inertial force of thirty thousand tons or so of moving steel.


The Madness of It All: A Rumination on War, Journalism, and Brotherhood

Winter 2002 | Essays

I celebrated Thanksgiving Day 1967 in a sandbagged underground bunker at a Marine outpost called Con Thien on the southern edge of the Vietnamese demilitarized zone. It wasn't much of a celebration. I'm told that in Vietnamese Con Thien means "place of angels," but at the time I was there, it was just a muddy rat-infested collection of bunkers, trenches, and concertina wire only big enough for a Marine battalion with supporting arms. If there were angels in that place, they did not reveal themselves to me.


Gravestones At Oxwich Bay

St. Iltyd's Church Gower, Wales I. "When the archangel's trump shall sound   And souls to bodies joined, Millions will wish their lives below   Had been so short as thine."  Sacred to the Memory of Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel & Elizabeth Ace [...]