Tuesday First Drafts

And We Shall Clap Our Hands

Sylvia Poggioli’s morning-deep
Announced the Easter death of
Madame Nhu, the Dragon Lady,
Tight sheaths and soup bowls. 
He is risen this morning and always,
But she, no longer able to anticipate
Omnipotence in her next life,
Is dead in her diamond-studded crucifix,
Talisman against her particular judgment.

Her remembrances must include those
Immolated monks, still protesting the
Police-brutal clatter, an unbalanced
Answer to their robe-quiet grace.
At her conversion, she cast off the Buddha
And wed herself to the gleeful violence of
The Roman Catholic Church, cheered its
Legacy of force, of reverential knees and
Epiphanic proclamations of power.

On the first morning of November,
The Times of Vietnam spoke its last.
That afternoon, the coup began, and
Rioters burned the paper’s offices,
Celebrating the assassination of
Diem and the exile of his First Lady.
The words of his regime, her words, fired
Fitfully, and they stood in small groups,
Not talking, still fearing the unwritten.

The heat pushed back, they had to turn,
One mumbled, uncertainly: Let them burn.

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