Dialectical Materialism

Through dark tenements and fallen temples we wander into Old Hanoi, oil lamps glowing in small storefronts and restaurants where those, so long ago my enemy, sit on low chairs and praise the simple evening. On one block the rich steam from pho, their morning and evening soup, rises, on another brown smoked ducks are strung up in a row. The people talk and smoke, men hold each other's hands again in that old way and children, their black and white laughter all around us, kick the weighted feather with such grace into the air because the bombs have stopped. And further to the Long Bien bridge where we meet a man filling buckets hung across his back's yoke to bring cool water to his corn in the moonlight. When we ask our questions he points to a stone and stick house beyond the dikes one thousand meters from the bridge our great planes could not finally knock down. He doesn't say how he must have huddled those nights with his family, how he must have spread himself over them until the village bell called them back to their beds. There are questions which people who have everything ask people who have nothing and they do not understand.

Hanoi, December 1985 From ``Song of Napalm,'' 1988 by Bruce Weigl and reprinted with permission of The Atlantic Monthly Press.

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