The Kontum Madonna by J. Vincent Hansen

This poem, written by J. Vincent Hansen – a veteran of the Viet Nam war, illustrates the direct impact of an historical event on an individual’s aging experience. In these lines the writer shares the memory of a military incident that resulted in a lifetime of personal regret and interrupted peace.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer. Our current guest editor is Judith Feenstra.

We have, so far, offered two poems this month of personal expression regarding the aging experience. Respectively, the poems reflected the concept of personal attribute and life-course forces as shapers of the aging process. 
This poem, written by J. Vincent Hansen – a veteran of the Viet Nam war, illustrates the direct impact of an historical event on an individual’s aging experience. In these lines the writer shares the memory of a military incident that resulted in a lifetime of personal regret and interrupted peace.

Judith Feenstra

The Kontum Madonna
J. Vincent Hansen

All morning
we cheered from a nearby hill
as the planes softened the place
that we would go to in the afternoon – 
​ and we were happy.

The bombs exploding below
were like the sounds of a band
assigned to welcome us – 
​and we were happy.

When we advanced
onto the bald patch of earth
we met no resistance – 
and we were happy.

Amidst the burned and half-buried bodies,
we came upon a sitting woman and child
soldered together in their place.

Gawking, we walked by
our high-tech sculpture,
hoping never having to look back.

We were young then and we were happy,
but we were foolish too – 

foolish enough to think
we could leave
that woman and child behind.


J. Vincent Hansen grew up on a farm east of Sauk Rapids, MN and graduated from Cathedral High School in St. Cloud in 1965. He spent three years with the 101st Airborne in the United States Army and seven years as a lay volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa with the Maryknoll Fathers. He is the recipient of the 1990 Loft-McKnight Award for Poetry, the 2009 Bush Artist Fellowship in Poetry, the 2020 Central Minnesota McKnight Individual Artist Award and the author of Blessed are the Peacemakers, a collection of Viet Nam war poems, published by North Star Press in St. Cloud. He has also authored two other collections of poems and essays entitled Without Dividend in Mind and The Medicine of Place also published by North Star Press. He also authored and produced the multi-media play, The Wedding of Tomorrow and Sorrow. ​He lives with his wife, Jeanette, in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota.

THE KONTUM MADONNA by J. Vincent Hansen appears with permission of the poet. This poem will be included in a new publication entitled THE KONTUM MADONNA scheduled to be released late 2020 by North Star Press of St. Cloud. The book will be available for purchase online from the publisher and at book outlets.

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