“Now that the war is over,
we’ll have to go back
to killing each other.

You can read the rest of the poem on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War Anti-Imperialist website


‘The end of the war is, for Coleman, problematic for the black soldier (regardless of any empowerment accorded them in the war context). “A Downed Black Pilot Learns to Fly” bristles with ironic humour. This is an interesting comment on warmaking in America: the idea that since this war is over, another must be waiting in the wings. The objects to be traded back and forth – medals for the lost leg, an ash tray for napalm – elicit a sarcastic laugh. The sobering implications, however, come from the speaker’s alienation within American society as a “black pilot”: the reawakened realization of racial enmity (the “we” who will “kill each other again” are blacks and whites in America) and the alienation of self from country in the closing two lines as index of the disenfranchisement of African Americans in the World.’

Vincente F. Gotera, Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans, University of Georgia Press, 1994, 166-7