“People Know My Lai”

Cal wrote to Carla Nguyen and me in an email:
“People know My Lai
(Or they think they do)
People over 60 or so
Remember the name Calley

But what about the others?
I don’t mean the other men
That joined Calley in the killing
I mean all the other villages we wiped out
I don’t just mean wiped out

By the grunts on the ground
I mean wiped out from above
By the pilots who didn’t get any blood on their hands
But sure as shit
Killed way more Vietnamese than Americal did

No one knows those villages
Oh, except for the Vietnamese
And those of us who were there
And are somehow able to remember it
And be clear —yeah, we did it

It’s really a mindfuck
To see My Lai as an isolated event
As if — wow, some serious shit happened there
No, serious shit happened to someone
Everywhere every fucking day

In the history books on Nam
You may read three paragraphs on My Lai
Or less
And nothing about scores of other places
And so it goes…”

Carla and I got a weekly email from Cal
He didn’t ask us if we wanted them
He just started sending them
Lucid and raw emails
It usually gave Carla and me some much needed silent time

“Didja read Cal’s latest?”
Four minutes would go by
Sometimes we’d look each other in the eyes
Other times shutting our eyes

We were trying to take it in
Aided and abetted by each other’s silence
“Perry, I think Cal wants us to do something”
“Carla, like what?
Look at what we’ve been doing”

“I don’t mean about Palestine”
“You mean about…?”
“Where my family comes from …
He is preparing us”
“What for?”

“Whatever we decide”
“What do you mean, Carla?”
“Perry, Cal is —as Thay likes to say—
Watering seeds in us
Hopefully, something will bear fruit”

–from work-in-progress, “Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris”

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