From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Purple Heart: The Shrapnel Inside My Heart (poem)

By r g cantalupo

Purple is not the color of my blood,
nor of my bruised, wounded heart.

Shrapnel constellates around
this beating life, but the metal
is not bronze, nor gold, but the
jagged lead of a VC mortar round.

My purpled heart's a time bomb
ever ready to explode, trip-wired
by the fine filament of my
many night-terror near-suicides.

Each pumping moment I hang
by a thread, dangling on a hangman's
noose, swinging between hope
and a survivor's black despair.

Please don't honor me with
Washington's profile, or with
three stars and two oak leaf clusters
with a purple and white ribbon.

Honor me with this metal
each moment pressing against
my chest, light as an infant's hand,
light as the page of an anthem—

as yet unwritten, or written with
my each new beat and breath…

—r g cantalupo

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