Under the Black Virgin

Between the cool ghost trees
silence caught
like a garrote -
plantations
another one of those goddamn places
off limits
on the way to Tay Ninh,
at least a Vietnamese name
you can actually say -
hard scrabble, hard times
always watched
by our own cherry martyr
Nui Ba Den,
a hard-case mama - the high ground -
and we wanted her in the worst way;
we knew that zone like
a tongue sweeping
’round and ’round teeth
sometimes,
we’d take Route 22 out to the gate
and lob hard rice over the sign:
you are now leaving
the Republic of South Vietnam
don’t let the barbed wire
hit your ass on the way out,
other times,
like new-moon Saturday nights
me and the boys
would hop the fence, maybe
dragging home later
our guts wriggling out
of both hands;
and that Cao Dai gingerbread temple,
sure was something else
its Giant Eye Ball
checking in with
Commie Command & Control
under Cu Chi I bet....
well, I might go back some time,
some hard-up holiday
if I thought
I could get up
that mountain
to see
what the hell we were doing.

Constance Lee Menefee
Copyright 2000