Korean War Haikus

Land of Morning Calm,
your evening thunder echoes
in my waking dreams

Two bleeding half-hearts,
but still one bloodstream feeding
the conjoined soil/soul.

Lunar Tiger Year
roaring with war lunacy.
Will we change your stripes?

Looking up from a
crap game at the shot-down sun's
burial at sea.

Pusan Perimeter
Between the river
and the sea. Too wet to sleep.
Might as well attack.

Inchon Landing
Amphibious dawn
swept beyond compassion's reach
to a tempest beach.

Collateral damage
Stephen Crane wrote "War
is Kind." He never saw its
widows and orphans.

The Han-Imjin Delta
Swift and slow they flow,
archiving history's silt
for the tides to read.

Honeymoon Patrol
Even a blown-off
ring finger could not sunder
vows he made to her.

Unsan Engagement
The road to Yalu,
far from Mandalay, we met
China on the way.

What am I doing
stuck in this one when the dead
have much better dreams?

Chosin Reservoir
Valor common as
snow and frostbitten feet walk
on winter water.

Street Girl
Her narrow eyes glowed
at the money I gave her
for my mother's gift.

Our Savior Napalm
Pilots, we pray, when
you piss hellfire from heaven,
please aim carefully.

Safety's foreign land
strains our combat nerves homesick
for life under fire.

Truce Negotiations
U.S. generals
meeting the enemy with
white flags. Makes me puke.

Spent bullets seeking
trajectory's end, our long
flight nearly finished.

Year of the Serpent.
Content to rest in peace, or
coiled to strike again?

The People's Spirit
As a young rice shoot
trodden in the mud, it will
find the sun once more.

Can death silence their
too-short stories? Not while I
am their ghost writer.


(A/n: Korea has long been called "The Land of the Morning Calm," as Japan is "The Land of the Rising Sun." The country was liberated from Japan by American and Russian armies at the end of WW II in 1945. The United Nations wanted free elections, but the Russians refused to cooperate. So two separate governments were established in 1948.

The Communist North invaded South Korea in 1950, the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar. The defending South Korean and U.N. forces were pushed into the area around the southeast seaport of Pusan until the U.S. Tenth Corps landed at Inchon on September 15 and broke the Communist assault.

The Han River from the south and the Imjin from the north converge above Seoul before draining into the Yellow Sea.

The North Koreans were nearly defeated by October, but later that month Communist Chinese armies poured down from Manchuria to start a new war. At Unsan the U.S. Eighth Cavalry Regiment fought a desperate battle with the Chinese. In late November at the Chosin Reservoir, the First Marine Division was surrounded by a Chinese army that threatened to annihilate it. But the Marines fought their way through sub-zero temperatures to Hungnam, where Navy ships evacuated them.

After that the front lines became more or less stable and truce negotiations started in July, 1951. They continued on and off until a cease-fire agreement was signed in 1953 and prisoners were exchanged.)