Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2010


by Wendy Klein

Like some whacky space-age insect
the American helicopter, blades
silenced by time and midday heat,
hunches, beached forever, just inside
the gate of the war remnants museum.
I am caught and pinned, my throat
closed by emotion, pollution, or both,
deafened by the memory of a million
late-night newsreels--the television
images of my father’s nightmares.
Saigon is falling all around me,
a stampede of desperate humanity
urgency unimaginable in this sleepy
afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City,
where screams and pleas are in the air,
but distant. Hawk-eye Pearce sprint-
crouches across my memory-screen
to tend incoming wounded,
while Jimi Hendrix grates and twangs
his tormented Star Spangled Banner.
Not far away, a B-52 bomber is grounded
alongside tanks that are harmless toys
compared to the BLU 82 Seismic bomb;
its sign that boasts its power to destroy
everything within a radius of a hundred miles.
Two grey-haired businessmen, edging into
their sixties, share a bench in the shade.
Strangers, seated less than a foot apart,
one Oriental, one Caucasian, and I believe
they may be linked in contemplation
of sometime past, find myself fixated
by their hands; hands the right age
for rolling joints, releasing Napalm; now
they punch out emails on their blackberries,
force down the ghosts they might share.

Added: 15.03.2010