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A brief biography of Larry Kerschner

Larry Kerschner is the poet Laureate for Veterans for Peace Rachel Corrie Chapter and has written a few books of poetry including Grave Lines and United States Military Diplomacy: From Wounded Knee to Afghanistan. Prolific writer of Letters to the Editor.

His blog can be followed at:

In his own words:  I work as a family nurse practitioner in a rural medical clinic. I am a Vietnam Vet and a member of Veterans for Peace. I am also member of Fellowship of Reconciliation and Voices in the Wilderness. I try to live my life according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. This leads me to oppose all violence (personal, economic and governmental) and to lean toward anarchy. My goal in life is re-union with the Transcendent.

I began writing poetry as a child but didn’t take it seriously until I started trying to understand all that I had gone through while a soldier in Vietnam.  I was in the Infantry and while I was in war I did what I needed to do in order to survive.  It wasn’t until several years after returning to the U.S. that I began to gain some perspective.  I developed great anger and sorrow over what I had been forced to do by a society that is for the most part willfully ignorant of the realities of the world.  Although I can claim personal historical and political ignorance prior to going to war, I judge myself as lacking moral and ethical strength for not opposing what my society was doing in that war.  Since then, I have through reflection, study, discussion, association with other military veterans and peacemakers, and the love of my family started to come to grips with both my personal and my nation’s history.

In the Christian tradition there is a call for repentance based on a Greek word etavoia which I understand has a core meaning to “turn around and take another look.”  My poetry tends to be “in your face” and offends some people. This is a result of my passionate wish for people to turn around and take another look at what is going on all around us. I hope this second look can help others with their own healing and with the healing of our common human community.”



the smell of war    

 the war was black and white

at first but then

in living color red and yellow and khaki green

brought into the living room but what was always missing

was the smell of war

my war smelled

of dying vegetation eau de agent orange

burnt gunpowder and burnt people

dark blood sweet and warm

piss   shit   sweat


the same smell is found in what’s left of a pizza shop

in Jerusalem amid Israeli rage

now the smell of war is in Jenin and Ramallah

piss and shit and blood

mixes with the frustrated cries

of the Palestinian people

Helen Caldicott holds up

a picture of an Arab baby with his head blown off

the smell of his head seeps up through the

concrete rubble after the tanks roll on

the same smell of piss and shit and blood

rose into the hot desert

some days after American soldiers

buried Iraqi soldiers


the same smell at Waco when the embers died and the smoke cleared

the same smell of

more anguished piss and shit and blood

was found by heroic firefighters

and police digging below the twin tower’s space

the same smell more piss more shit

more blood

was found near Kabul raised with the dust

by bombs from 40,000 feet

next we’ll find that smell in Colombia or will it be Baghdad

the smell added to the smell of oil added to the smell of the 5,000 children

who die each month or in the Philippines

or Somalia or Iran or some other new axis of evil


the putrescent odor of piss and shit and blood

of war and death

should gag us all

however as Erasmus said five hundred years ago

war is sweet

to those who know it not

—Larry Kerschner


How to perform a war

I will teach you how

to perform a war

a clean operation

to remove that dangerous tissue

which can no longer be controlled

we first name it cancer

we curse it for an inhuman bastard

nothing legitimate to be found

the pathologic question

must be asked and answered

weighing whether a pound of flesh will be enough

shared definitions in hand

we sharpen our knives


chrome and steel

bright lights

remove any shadow

of doubts

patriotic anesthesia dulls the senses

common and other

to the loud cutting

ripping and

bleeding to come

once hidden viscera bloody red

broken bone white

and hypoxic blue tissue

stare out at us

unexpected collateral damage

can be dressed

with sterile white gauze

although the bloated smell

sometimes remains



we will remove our gloves  and

wash our hands

—Larry Kerschner


This poem was first published in the Vietnam Vets against the War newspaper  The Veteran Volume 37, Number 1 (Spring 2007).  It was written in response to the Pentagon’s attempt to rewrite the history of the Vietnam War.


Rachel    (Rachel Corrie, 1979-2003)

In this rubble of war in Rafah

we continue to live with you


Clipping mint into

steaming white teacups

we remember your smile


We remember the sweet lemon

of your laugh as

our children  play

in the dusty highway


We remember your heart


Another Rachel is buried along

another dusty road near Jerusalem


When Jeremiah spoke of

her weeping for her children

he prophesied of you


Each lamb sacrificed

for a wedding feast

or funeral strengthens

those to come


Our God said that

with all of our sacrifices

we must offer salt


We remember the salt

of your tears


Ibnati Rachel



You still live in our house

—Larry Kerschner


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