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Mac Crary – The Poetic Voice from Little Saigon

In LittleSaigon - Seattle, Văn Chương on 2009/09/19 at 14:57

It is our honor to share with you Mac Crary’s poetry here this week.  We are moved by his fresh voice and authentic connection with more than one Little Saigon in America. Mac’s memories of Vietnam/American War were painted vividly with powerful and at times mourning words, and so inviting to provoke ours that occurred simultaneously at the other side of the Pacific Ocean. In short, Mac’s recent letter to the International Examiner, as well as his two below poem do warm our humble spirit and activism mind. The heart-felt connection is in fact unexpected and priceless.

Shredded Margins

One would wish Little Saigon
to be a home and not a symbolic home
for the Vietnamese: a tree
sturdy and sure
rather than a totem pole.

And then came Branson
with the big idea
perfect square
big and hefty
spiffy clean with plastic plants
a landing strip
and a helicopter ramp for day care.
No, thank you, kind sir.

Boat people
the tenacity of trauma
bulging eyes, frightened bellies
desperate children
heartbroken parents
unable to protect them
from the atrocious heat of limbo
deranged, stripping naked
take it from me if that is what you want.

After years of tutoring
they scream at new confines
children dashing into treacherous streets
No!
We cannot live by luck
No!
Thieves, please do not prey on us!
No!
We refuse to hide our heads.
Refuse,
we will march to any cause we believe.

This home shall be rooted
strong and sure
this tree
become a forest.
This heart
become a rain
that feeds the corn.

Mac Crary

The Deaf River

The word Vietnam fell on my forehead like water torture.
It’s time I warned you.
There’s reason our hearts have safety valves.
In a scent of fell cloves
a burning urine stuck in my stomach
making me throw up yellow rain.
The things that have been left unsaid and undone
because of Vietnam.

Some men see women in categories
of Italian, Latin, Negritude and shade;
others see them as mothers, sisters, spouses and colleagues,
but the combat veteran is a place all her own.
Vietnam, I’m burning, shivvering.
Vietnam, I’m choking.

You will remember that
during the evacuation of Saigon
a woman committed suicide with her Amerasian children
leaving a note to her father that read:
I had thought better of you.
For some of us, I guess I mean me,
the tragedy of our times is too dear
the sorrow and loneliness within will never go away.
Even the thought of sharing the rights of agony
drives us to the brink of screaming.

For us the only answer
is plastic palms and sand bars
in a globe of crystal
a separate reality
surrounded by peace signs
that read: No Trespassing
and Keep the Hell Out.

Some of us keep an agonized
attack dog driven piteous from cruelty
with one eye pleading for a milkbone
while yapping and snarling
and certain to bite your goddam arm off.
I keep searching for hidden resources
against the voice saying burn, baby burn.
I’ve been squeezed out like caulk
to fill in gaps like dead letter ads.
I’ve seen the political years wasted by borish gnomes.
I feel like the rice paddy grandmother
become a raw spectral witch
her bonnet catching the sun rays of the ten thousand things
as they pushed her off the helicopter ramp
and she withered up in midair as she fell.
At the snap of a veteran’s fingers you will wake up
and accept your place in hell.

Be it ever so humble.

One Summer when I was poor
someone gave me a strawberry.
I honored it like a tragedy.
Wept as I ate.
It had been so long.
It was like coming out of a coma.
Seeing Dan Rather for the first time in ten years.

I went out to the Tao Dan Cafe
where they try to look
stoic but young
against forces of growing centuries too soon.
Coming from churches and casinos
to watch old ballroom videos from France,
with growing impatience for the American Dream.

A poet crosses off a word from paper.
The broken mirror cuts off your head
as a chair turns you its way.
A poet crosses off a word from paper
and they being to tremble;
a shout arises from the card game
like tears in the forest after the rain.

And the word is no.
We both said it.
We both said it at different times,
we said it about different things,
but it meant the same:
that it hurts too much.

Mac Crary (from “Hypotenuse: Poetry for the Commoner” )

Letter to the International Examiner re: “Little Saigon Asks the Mayor to Walk the Talk” (Thư Anh ngữ cho chủ bút International Examiner về bài “Little Saigon Yêu Cầu Lời Nói Thị Trưởng Đi Đôi Việc Làm)

Thư cho chủ bút International Examiner về bài “Little Saigon Yêu Cầu Lời Nói Thị Trưởng Đi Đôi Việc Làm (Vietnamese Version)

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