May 17, 2017

Pepper Trail

AT THE FORESTRY INSTITUTE, HANOI

They are modestly proud of it
Their bomb crater, behind the greenhouses
They lead visitors out through the re-grown grove
Warning of mud and roots, where it waits
Water-filled, its clay walls braced with bamboo
Round as a temple cistern

December 1972, more bombs fell on Hanoi
Than on London during the Blitz
You can see the photos in the War Museum
On Dien Bien Phu Boulevard, by the Lenin statue
Block after block of small buildings, flat
Nothing standing but the people

A few steps from the crater is a bunker
Rounded, half-buried in leaves and soil
You can go inside and sit
Imagine the forester hiding there
As his rosewood trees burst and burned
Holding in his arms a metal box of seeds

from Rattle #55, Spring 2017
Tribute to Civil Servants

[download audio]

__________

Pepper Trail: “For the past eighteen years, I have worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a forensic ornithologist, identifying bird remains that are evidence in wildlife crime investigations. This strange, rewarding, and troubling job brings me face to face with death every day of my working life. It has also taken me to places like Vietnam, where I worked on combatting the illegal wildlife trade, and wrote ‘At the Forestry Institute, Hanoi.’ I spend much of my free time in nature (my graduate work involved field studies of animal behavior), and many of my poems reflect my close observation of the living world.” (twitter)