KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 4: Fall 2015
Poem: 232 words [R]

Living Will

by Doug Anderson
I’ve been putting it off and now my doctor says it’s time.
Do not resuscitate unless you can reset me to age one.
Please unhook everything that holds me to my life
and especially my cravings and addictions so that in
my last moment I might know who I am beneath
who I think I am, and hear the name beneath the name.
For those who rejected me I leave what they could not see
so that they will go on forever not seeing it.
For those who demanded busywork instead of dreaming
I leave the boat I used to navigate my nightmares.
For the men who mugged me that night in Brooklyn,
knife at my throat, I leave the disappointment
of what my money could not change in their lives.
For those who hate me I leave their own stomach acid.
For my lovers I sing this small song:
However incompetent we were to find through
our small love the great love of Heaven, know that 
it mattered and some small wound in the earth was healed.
For those who loved me I leave nothing because
they require nothing of me and never did and instead
send me on my way, my boat full of burning flowers.
For myself I ask forgiveness for my inability to see 
the depth of the gift of my life and breath. So be it.

—Posted on Facebook on 28 August 2015 and appears here by author’s permission

Doug Anderson
Issue 4, Fall 2015

is an American poet, memoirist, and photographer who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and served as a combat medic in Vietnam. After returning home from the war, he studied acting at the University of Arizona, where he earned an M.A. degree. He later settled in Massachusetts and began writing poems in the Group 18 writing workshop founded in 1986 by Jack Gilbert, Linda Gregg, and James Finnegan. [See also Open Field: Poems from Group 18 (Open Field Press, November 2012).]

Anderson’s work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Connecticut Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, and The Southern Review, among others, as well as in the anthology The Hundred Years’ War: Modern War Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).

His most recent book is a collection of poems, Horse Medicine (Barrow Street Press, 2015). His memoir Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery was published in 2009 by W.W. Norton and Company. From an editorial review in Publisher’s Weekly:

In his first book of nonfiction, Anderson tells his story in inviting, poetic prose. He begins with his dysfunctional childhood in Memphis, then offers an evocative depiction of his service in Vietnam, which included a firefight on his first day in the field and more than his share of closely observed horror. He shows the hell of war as he went through it. Only in recent years did Anderson stop drinking, find meaningful work as a poet and teacher, marry, and make a life-changing trip back to Vietnam in 2000. Yet what Anderson dubs Snakebrain (the demons inside him) remains a part of him. His beautifully told story is one of redemption, but also one without a happy ending.

He has written two poetry collections as well. His war poems have been called “uncompromising” and “wrenching” by fellow poets and rank among the most honest, intimate portraits of war’s complex imagery. The first collection, The Moon Reflected Fire (Alice James Books, 1994), won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and was described by Joyce Peseroff, an Advisory Editor for Ploughshares and author of four poetry books, as “not just about Vietnam but resonant with the history of warriors from the backyard to The Iliad to the Bible.” His second collection, Blues for Unemployed Secret Police (Curbstone Books, 2000), received a grant from the Eric Matthieu King Fund of the Academy of American Poets.

Anderson lives in Palmer, Massachusetts, where he is director of development for Blue Star Equiculture, a horse-rescue facility and organic farm. In addition to the war poems, his work focuses on a range of contemporary issues and concerns, as well as deeply personal material. [See also Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry.] He has written film scripts, fiction, and criticism, and is currently working on a novel about Ambrose Bierce. His play, “Short Timers,” was produced at The Theater for the New City in 1981 (New York).

He has taught in the MFA programs at Bennington College and Pacific University of Oregon; Smith and Emerson Colleges; Eastern Connecticut State University; and the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Its Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Connecticut in 2006 and now teaches in the department of comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Awards include a Pushcart Prize; and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Virginia Quarterly Review, Poets & Writers, The MacDowell Colony, and other funding organizations.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Scattering My Mother’s Ashes on the Family Plot at Hickman, Kentucky, a poem from Anderson’s latest collection Horse Medicine (Barrow Street Press, 2015)

Night Ambush, a poem in 20th Century Protest Poetry: Poems that Made a Difference (5 November 2013)

Two Boys, a poem in the San Diego Reader (22 September 2010)

An Interview by Natalie Seabolt Dobson in Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, where Anderson was Featured Artist of the Month (June 2010)

Sixty-One, a poem from Anderson’s chapbook, Cry Wolf (Azul Editions, 2008), reprinted at Poetry Foundation dot org

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