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TWO POEMS

By Bonnie Gibson, April 18, 2023

Traffic on the Truang Tien Bridge over the Perfume River in Hue, Vietnam. (Photo by Bonnie Gibson)

TWO POEMS

Truang Tien Bridge

Hue, Vietnam

We walk east across the Perfume River

An older Vietnamese man spits in our direction

while riding his bike west

What do he and I remember

of the war my country fought in his?

We are both old enough to remember 

the body counts, bombs, devastation

I read about it, saw it on television

The young people here welcome us, guide us

Speak in charming English 

with slight British accents.  They listen to BBC

In the Spring, flowers from upstream orchards

float down under the bridge, perfuming the waters

In the market colors explode

All things grown and living are for sale

An old woman squatting before a bowl

of small silver fish cuts them with a knife

She shoos me away with a gesture, 

words I cannot understand when I start to take a picture

Crossing the bridge back

We try not to stare at the man

sitting on the walkway

His face disfigured into a black mask

but he lets loose a muffled yell

I turn back, bow to him

look deep into his one clear eye

The heart keeps beating even when we sleep

The water keeps flowing under the bridge

 

Igor’s Red Photo Album 1995

Today Igor and I eat lunch on a bench under the ash in the park

He has brought along pictures

HERE are some from a party he and his wife Maia went to just after they met where he got very drunk and she left early thinking he was a hopeless alcoholic

He unfolds a poem written by a friend for their wedding but it is in Ukrainian and he does not translate

HERE is the small red photo album from his high school graduation

He goes slowly through each page

HERE is a hill with ancient ruins of a castle at the top.  You can walk a winding path up there.  It is a tourist attraction on the outskirts of Lviv.

SHE became a doctor, her father was a famous pilot in Vietnam, she moved to Moscow to go to medical school.

SHE was an artist, we shared a table for three years and we drew together.  I used to write poetry.  I burned all my poems and drawings.  They were romantic and my youth.

HE was very tall, maybe 6’7”, I didn’t like him, once I got up on a chair so I could hit him in the face.  Outside of school, if you wanted fresh air you had to be a street fighter.  

He inhales hard to reveal a lopsided nose.

SHE was very beautiful, everyone was in love with her, I dated her for maybe a month, but she went out with older guys.   The last time I saw her she looked so different.  Her hair had been blonde, but was dyed a red color, and she had a hard life, she was a call girl going out with diplomats.  She had married someone in the navy, divorced, married again, divorced again.  She was very beautiful.

HE was one of my best friends, he went to engineering school with Maia, he introduced us.  

I used to have many friends.

I grew up near here, by Lenin Square, played in the plaza here where they have since removed this statue of Lenin.  My daughter Faina also played here as a little child.  

THIS building, a theater where ballet is performed, is very beautiful.  I grew up nearby so that I could see it out of my balcony, and I again lived nearby just before I left the Soviet Union.  There is a river that runs below this theater and below the street that follows its path.  The contractor who built it killed himself when, right after construction, it sank a ways into the ground, but it was fine after that.

SHE died in a car crash in 1977.

HE joined the Communist Party, that is all he ever wanted to do, he didn’t really like people.  He didn’t have much of a family and they were very poor, all he ever wanted was to have power and money.

SHE was Jewish.  I am Jewish.

Tell me what do you think about these faces?  Do they look different than those in your country?  Americans have heavier jaws.  Americans show their teeth when they smile and stand close to you when they talk to you, they nod their heads a lot.  Bulgarians shake their heads when they say yes, it is very confusing.

We walk down the street back to work, we shake our heads and say yes and laugh.

Igor says he hasn’t dreamed in color since he left Ukraine four years ago.

 

© Bonnie Gibson

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Contributor

Bonnie Gibson lives and gardens in the lovely Diamond Creek valley outside of Whalan, Minn. 

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Bonnie@rootrivercurrent.org