Just Another Night at Café Illunination

After the talk on Operation Cast Lead
Carla Nguyen and I headed over to Café Illumination
Where we began processing what we heard

We sat outside as it was a balmy night
Odd how calm we felt
After the typical brouhaha and sparks flying

We were surprised
When an older man approached us
“Hi, the name’s Cal…

I saw you at the Palestine speaker
Damn! — That one guy got pretty hot
And no one was there to support him”

We introduced ourselves
Carla bid him to sit with us
But he replied, “No, you are talking together

I can see that …
The thing is I’m familiar
With this kind of thing”

Carla asked, “Which thing, Cal?”
“White phosphorous
I’m a vet

Vietnam 68 & 69
As was my brother before me …
He died a few years ago …”

Nothing like being candid
In the first five minutes
Of meeting someone

Then he continued
“Anyway, I’d be the first to agree
Israel’s got a lot to answer for

But compared to what we did–
And are doing–
Israel’s in the tee-ball league

Whereas of course
We’re the major leagues
No one has held us accountable

For the shit we did to the Vietnamese
Not to mention the Laotians
And Cambodians

Ah, damn, sorry to be such a downer–”
“No, we know what that’s like!”
I said noticing how intently

Cal was looking at Carla
Then he turned to me and mentioned
“I’ve got a little group going…”

And he handed me
An old-fashioned business card
With the name of his group

“Good night, good talking with you …”
He said with a smile
“…and Free Palestine!”

And with that Cal walked out into the night
“Carla, did you see how he was looking at you?”
“Yeah, but couldn’t you tell?”

“Tell what?”
“He was practicing deep looking at me
And I was practicing deep looking at him”

“OK, now I get it”
Then I showed Carla his card which read
Agent Orange Satyagraha

–from novel-in-progress, The Bodhisattva Smiles in Hell
(Sequel to Dear Layla/Welcome to Palestine)

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