VIETNAM WAR POETRY

  the general's visit

                        soft foam slippers for his feet
                        a bowl of rice steamed, marinated pork ribs
                        clean sheets
                        a bed in a room where the window faces east
                        the guest becomes the king

                        his limp is pronounced
                        his smile crooked, generous
                        his hands land firm and gentle
                        on the host’s back
                        "remember the time..." he begins
                        the room is transfixed

                        though I am small and limber
                        i can barely keep up
                        his steps are still large and looming
                        his cane focused and adamant
                        the hero is sentimental
                        he's driven to see his men

                        the past is the past
                        dead men tell no tales
                        but he is still alive
                        and until he meets his final day
                        his lips siphon tales
                        not of what was lost
                        but what was gained

                        the birth of his lieutenant's sixth child
                        the first of his men to own a house
                        his brother’s new business
                        the first to line the streets of Bolsa
                        i clamor alongside him
                        rejoice in the cà phê s?a dá, set on his table

                        "ah General," the restaurant owner says
                        patrons fight over his bill before the food is ordered
                        the check has already been paid
                        and for me too? I ask
                        i want the crab marinated in salt and pepper
                        don't be greedy, he says

                        these are offerings
                        on an altar still living
                        not for me but for the things we lost
                        we all lost
                        when our country fell
                        someday you'll understand

                        the hero reminisces
                        a fresh spring roll perched in his hands
                        every bite is mixed with handshakes
                        offers for a temporary bed facing the east
                        my wife and I will sleep in the living room
                        you take our bed

                        i saw you on tv
                        says a friend
                        who hasn't
                        the image is transfixed
                        our hero villainized
                        a generations' suffering minimized

                        the general shrugs, "That is all they can understand"
                        but not all of them, he says
                        not their soldiers, their men
                        the pretty face men, the scarred men
                        the ones that lost their friends
                        they understand

                        the hero returns home
                        his friends sigh
                        their homes have been blessed
                        their businesses will prosper
                        the lucky dragon has done his dance
                        his limp a badge of honor

                        year after year the general returns
                        soft foam slippers for his feet
                        a bowl of rice steamed, marinated pork ribs
                        clean sheets
                        a bed in a room where the window faces east
                        this is how you welcome a hero

                        if only the Americans could do the same
                        for their men, he muses
                        and I nod like I understand
                        i did not know him then
                        i know him now
                        a dragon, a hero, a man.

by Contributing Poet:     z.m. quynh   Copyright © 2014
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2015 )


Bio:   z.m. quynh   huddles in deep east oakland in a room tinged with blue nursing calloused hands worn down from the chronic transcription of restless dreams. past lives have included scattered jaunts through urban minefields with each misstep hinting at a life less easily mapped out by this amateur cartographer. irrationally drawn to moving mountains one stone at a time, quynh has tackled the tasks of labor organizer, juvenile hall literacy coordinator, artistic director of a guerrilla feminist theatre troupe, mother, mentor and best friend (all rolled up in one), civil rights advocate, guardian ad litem for foster care youth, waitstaff at one too many late night diners (hey…free food - what?), slam poet, urban horticulturalist, visual junk artist, passionate lover, and cocktail server/candy salesperson at all night rave parties (hungry people pay $5 for candy bars!). The Sea Is Ours will be quynh's debut in spec fic.
ZMQuynh.com


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