James E. Harper

by Nic Olson

Union Square, San Francisco is characterized by elegantly well-lit buildings topped with brightly coloured advertisements that tower over the large concrete plaza below. Last night, while taking in the wet ocean air that was breathing through Union Square, a friend and I met a man named James E. Harper who was selling a small book of photocopied poems that he had written. He sold his book of poems, which he described as more like songs, that he had written about his experiences at war in Vietnam. He sold the photocopy for five dollars so that he and his wife could survive in the alleyway they lived in nearby. With the large monument lit up behind him, he humbly told us that if we google his name (he was certain to tell us that his name was James E. Harper, and not James F. Harper as it said on the copy of his booklet, likely caused by repeated photocopying) and the title of his collection, that we would find more of his works online. After a search on Google, I was not able to find any of his complete works posted online, only a small forum of other people’s interactions with him through another blog. Not everyone has the luxury of a free website to post their words, so I figured I could at least give him that. I tried to keep his poems as true as I could to the copy I was given, with emphasis, capitalization, punctuation and phrasing, but where the photocopy was difficult to read, I used my best judgement.
Here are the three poems that I received.

Vietnam, Is My Test-A-Ment
by James E. Harper

I was taken from home
And trained to kill
Another human being
Against my will
He fought real hard
To protect himself, and his land,
But I had no choice but to survive
And now I live with blood on my hands.
“Vietnam, is my test-a-ment” 

I always had to be aware of where
I’d place my next step
Or I could find myself down
In panic, screaming, Medic Help!!!
A lot of good and brave young boys
Are now dead, and gone, Please someone
Tell me why, because we made it back
To America, but not back home.
“Vietnam, is my test-a-ment” 

We were always smoking weed
And staying high
Because it helped our young minds
to get by.
Yes Vietnam is my test-a-ment for the
Way I live my life, so for all the fellows
That didn’t make it, I have no further
Respect for the Stars / and Stripes. Because
“Vietnam, is my test-a-ment” 

The President
James E. Harper

If I was the President
I’d give everybody a ride on Air Force One,
I’d let you see all parts of the world
We’d have a whole lot of fun

If I was the President
All of the little children
Would have a home, and plenty of food to eat,
Plus, everybody would say hello – and how are you
To everyone they meet.

If I was the President
They would elect me on Friday,
Assasinate me on a Saturday,
Bury me on a Sunday,
And everyone would take their asses
back to work on Monday.

If I
Was the President

“Look Into My Eyes”
James E. Harper

Look into my eyes
And see what life has made of me,
And see that my soul is not bound, but free

“Look into my eyes”
To know that my seed have not been fruitful
And see that my spirit is not that of untruthfulness
And realize that the hurt, and pain that my heart
Has been subjected to.

“Look into my eyes”
And for a moment know all the passionate things
I want to do to you,
Or to know the love I have to give, But no one
Yet has been worthy

Look into my eyes
To know that many of my thoughts have not
Been pure, but dirty
Or to see the old man wishing for
Much younger days.

Look into my eyes – Feel free my friend go ahead
Dare to gaze
Into my eyes.