Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WE, by KAREN SWENSON



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First Line: In a museum of the city
Last Line: They they they they they they they they.
Subject(s): Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975; Guilt


In a museum of the city
once called Saigon, are snapshots. One's
been blown up so we can all see
it clearly. An American,

a young foot soldier, stands on battle
pocked land, his helmet at a jaunty
tilt, posed for buddies as the Model
Grunt. In his left hand he is dangling,

like Perseus, a head by its hair.
Though not Medusa's, it's his charm
for turning fear to stone. Its stare
will quiet, awhile, his throbbing chest.

The tattered flesh that once dressed collar
bones hangs rags from this Vietnamese
neck, captured with the soldier's scar
of grin by a friend's camera.

Is it enough to see it clearly?
We all know what to think. The whitewashed
walls of a second room show nearly
as many black-and-white shots of

Cambodian atrocities
against Vietnamese. No room's hung
with what was done to enemies
of Vietnam, just as there's no
American museum built
to show off snapshots of My Lai.
One pronoun keeps at bay our guilt
they they they they they they they they.





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