Film: footage from Combat Operations, Hoi An, South Vietnam (1968)


We let the dead bury the dead
Pray ghosts all to quiet, to pillow and bless
the pits, the vaults of our scaffolds

Nevermind the anthems.
You nevermind the ribbons in silks

Nevermind the bomb-runs
You nevermind the trumpets, my pills
Sleep breathing, breathing

soft in the talc, the suckle
So safe in a mastiff’s taut jaw

It’s the same for us.
All that doesn’t matter much.
Life’s the same for us!
We, the wives—the widows—
still living, our wounds lightly dressed.

We let the dead bury the dead
for good, for now
Coin dies from the silver, we huddle, forget
in our readymade cathedrals

Nevermind the floodline
You nevermind the tanktreads and trills

Nevermind the sirens
You nevermind the dirges, their windpipes filled
up choking in water

So what if instead of this mourning
we cradle our last living breaths?

It’s the same for us.
All this doesn’t matter much.
Yes, the same for us!
Oh the tyrants, the poets,
the soldiers—all boys at the breast.

Originally published in Paperbag #2

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Must talk with broken things

R.A. Villanueva

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