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Saigon, 1975 or The Great American Fuck-Up

the desperation in their shadowed eyes
deepens as the helicopter sounds fade into the distance.
Suddenly, promises of safety are only a memory,
fantasies of freedom are smashed to the ground.
Dusty quiet bounces from the walls of the embassy,
fear and tension as absolute as the silence.

The crowd is blind and silent
seeing nothing as though their eyes
are closed, but they are open. The embassy
stands, a pillar to betrayal. The distant
enemy's approach shakes the ground,
a sensation marked indelibly on their memories.

One woman's thoughts fly to regrets and memories,
moments where she should have snapped the silence
between herself and a friend, should have looked up from the ground
and caught a stranger in the eyes
as she shuffle-stepped down streets to work. Past flutters down distantly
like papers from the roof of the embassy:

perpetually spoiled and interfering Americans crowding the embassy,
leaving behind lists of names (Westerners have no memory)
before retreating into the nighttime distance
and leaving the rooms empty and silent.
She breathes, erases present by closing her eyes,
loses balance and slumps to the ground.

Americans always return for their dead; yet she is left on the ground
wondering what it stands for anyway, this embassy,
and whose victory is this? Some red-eyed
shaking GI, leaving with nightmarish memories
and returning to no parades, but stiff silence
from people for whom Saigon is an unfathomable distance?

Is it his victory, this man whose mind is distant,
still trapped a hundred feet above the ground
watching screams, hearing terror, knowing that the silence
is coming soon? The woman lies prostrate before the embassy,
wishing that memory
worked in reverse. She finds she cannot open her eyes.

Defeat replaces silence below the embassy;
one by one, they close the distance between themselves and the ground.
The memory of a sunrise above Hiroshima burns bright in their eyes.

3 April 2002