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Phantoms -- poetry by Athena Mahajani

Drenched in a downpour of sweat

I wake in my torn tent with a start;

Hands trembling, bile in my throat,

I grab for my M16 but find nothing.

Panicking, I peer out of the tent flap

At joggers and car lights whizzing by,

Know horns were the barrage of blasts

Deafening me in recurrent nightmares.

The face of my foe yet rises before me

As I lie on downtown's cold concrete,

Still seeing my bullet enter his chest

With my feet stuck in mud and blood.

Eyes open still to sunny Los Angeles,

I keep seeing war-scarred jungle land,

Feel soaked from fierce heat and rain,

Try to dodge snake pits and punji sticks.

Now, citizens dream of serving America,

No draft needed; but they don’t yet know

The traps, explosions, landmines, horrors,

And PTSD, enough to exceed a lifetime.

Fifty years of tears shed before sleep and

Upon waking with phantoms of Vietnam.


Athena Mahajani, age 17, has studied poetry privately for six years in Silicon Valley under the tutelage of Judith Lyn Sutton, a multiple award-winning poet and prose writer. Over time, Athena has had 18 poems published nationwide, some in two or more journals accepting previously published work and some as single publications. Her poetry has won 11 awards along the way. Recently, she has begun receiving accolades for prose. Additionally, she has trained in oral presentation, reading her work in venues across the South Bay Area, San Francisco, and Northern California.

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