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In the Small Orb of One Particular Tear

Posted to Poetry




In the Small Orb of One Particular Tear*

Do you remember when
(there was a time)
when you only saw toys?
Do you remember when
(you entered time)
and saw your first headline?

BIG BLACK BOLD
TYPE FACE SHAPES
against a white background
letters spelling catastrophe

TET

The Year of the Monkey, the animal that abides in your heart.

A 4 day cease fire to celebrate the most celebrated holiday,
the lunar New Year, but Charlie changed
the calendar so the year had already begun
and the ceremony was over.

JANUARY 31ST 1968
SURPRISE ATTACK
EVE of TET

In the city of Hue, the ancient royal capital,
No more temples, no more sacred buildings
Can you kill people while they pray?
Masses of mass graves
Hundreds tied together with ropes,
Electric wires, telephone cords.
Charlie had communicated.

2000 confirmed dead
6000 civilians missing
Untold thousands still unknown.

After one month’s occupation
15,000 dead
2 million refugees.
The boat people of the Hue province.
The beginning of the end of our involvement.
That would be the final headline.


I was a headline on the eve of the new year:
LA TIMES: THE FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND
My father, on a mine-sweeper, along the coastline.
“Where the Navy goes, we have already been.”
We had a pretend Xmas in March,
when his tour of duty ended and he returned
with Hong Kong toys and GI Joes,
a cricket cage and rice candy.
“We had a nice New Year in Guam.”
He captured a grey clay water jug,
just floating off-shore,
big enough to crouch in;
it stayed in front of the house,
from move to move.
It still is there.

My birthday, May, 1972:
A 3rd grader in the playground
in the front yard of Phu Thu
district elementary school,
finds the last mass grave
while digging
for a cricket in the sand.

*line from Shakespeare