The Kon Tum Motorbike Taxi Driver
says before the city fell he lived
in Saigon. He says he is sorry
his English is not better. He says
he has more practice now with French.
He says he used to be a professor of
philosophy. He says that was before. . .
and he waves his hand as if he were
brushing away a bothersome fly.
He says he went to America once.
He says that was also before. . .
and the same fly requires
brushing away. He says he is sure
you know what he is saying.
Drâa Valley Cemetery
Pounded flat by habit
a narrow path leaves a pile
of houses pulled from the ground
brick on brick and crumbling back
since the day they were made.
Beyond the last wall, sharp stones
mark the ends of graves as if to say
dry loss makes plain sorrow harder.
Whatever grows there grows
thorns, comes bent from the seed,
endures because it must.
Because there is no real comfort
in a coffin. Because there is
no coffin at all, just someone
wound in a shroud,
carried out from the town.
Parched air hovers around the graves,
and hoopoes probe the dirt between
stones, stop and hold—then flash
black wing stripes, bright topknots
into the green relief of the palmerie
across the road. Its irrigated shade.
New wheat coming up beneath the trees.
Whatever you thought you were
made of was never meant to last.
No matter where I go I think of somewhere
else, some place I’ve traveled in the past.
In Morocco, breathing dry Saharan air,
I saw Sonora with its cactus and its dust.
If every single place must have its double
and every double doubles-up the same,
then here, with my elbows on this table,
I could still be anywhere but where I am.
Photo of motorbikes in Viet Nam by Joseph Green.