Kyoto Journal

Vietnam War Poetry


The Gambler

The metal rod she holds is her wand
the deck is more than 52 cards
her suits: bombs used on both sides of the war—
M14, đap lôi, mìn muôi
she walks in the wild fields seeking the invisible
bringing it to the surface in a strange beauty
of smoke and explosion
the wager is her life or a limb
the shovel, a tongue that lifts the crumbling earth
to reach an unexploded landmine
she spreads out the dirt beneath her hands like cards

[First published in the anthology Mo’ Joe, Beatlick Press, 2014]



Agent Blue

To kill correctly
takes calculation.

Down to a science.
cacodylic acid.

Know water and rice
on a cellular level.

Make sure
no surviving
seed can be
and planted.

Because even
a small seed

and bombs
can not destroy
a grain.

Because our
heart is made
of seeds.

Know what it
takes to kill
the seeds.

Know what it
takes to deprive
the plant of water,
to dehydrate it.

To be surrounded
by love but unable
to absorb it.