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Sunday, August 28, 2011


VIET NAM , August 11, 1966 

11 people die, 187 are wounded
it is a tragedy
they are civilian

11 people die, 187 are wounded
it is a victory
they are the enemy

11 people die, 187 are wounded
it is an atrocity
they are ours

skin off the labels,
taste the darkness beneath
ask a leg if it is civilian
an arm if it is the enemy
an eye if it is ours

Ellen S. Jaffe, published in Crossing Lines: Poets Who Came to Canada in the Vietnam War Era.  Ed. Allan Briesmaster and Steven Michael Berzensky, Seraphim Editions: Hamilton, 2008.
Ellen and Steven talked to Steve Paikin of TVO’s The Agenda about this book in February 2011 as a webcast feature. You can watch the interview, in which Ellen reads this poem, at

Ellen S. Jaffe  
   Photo credit Roger V. Gilbert

Born in New York City, Ellen studied in England for several years and came to Canada in 1979. She has lived in Hamilton since 2000, and feels at home here.  Her published books include Writing Your Way: Creating a Personal Journal; Water Children (poems); Feast of Lights: a young adult novel; and Syntymalauluja/Birth Songs (a bilingual poetry book, Finnish and English).  She has also published in anthologies and journals. Ellen has received literary awards from Arts Hamilton and has given many readings in Hamilton, including Lit Live, in Toronto and other Ontario locations, and across Canada. She has received writing and “artist in education” grants from the Ontario Arts Council, and works with Learning/Living Through the Arts, teaching writing in schools and community settings.  She has also written several plays; one, Promise You Won’t Marry Me, was produced by Black Box Fire’s EAS series in 2008.

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