MIDWEEK POETRY: Flowers of Vietnam

Flowers of Vietnam.

They bloom in the mountains and by the sea,

in tiny villages and cities.

Delicate, scented, their skin like orchid petals,

hair blacker than a moonless night.

Deep brown almond eyes tell you nothing,

as you stare into them through the faded

light of a dingy bar.

Pressing her against the flimsy wall next to the

well-worn entrance to her room, all you can see

is your lust reflected in them.

Do you want to stare into eyes that have gazed

dispassionately into those of a thousand other men?

~~~

You’ll never look into the eyes of the woman planting rice

in the paddy. Her slender body will only yield to the rhythm

of her work, as she picks and plants in the muddy waters.

The water is poisoned.

The land, a battleground for centuries is degraded,

vibrating with the tread of foreign, booted feet

and clank of metal tracks. The thump of artillery

has taken over from the harmony of nature.

Life goes on.

~~~

Pausing in her work she raises her head

lifting the brim of her straw hat.

The men catch a glimpse of her face as they pass,

blank, unreadable. She knows their thoughts,

aware of what they want to do to her.

Lowering her head she smiles.

The sun will set over the far mountains soon

and she well knows where her rifle lays in the weeds.

Laurie Smith© 2013

Disclaimer for the photo. I took this picture in Vung Tau, the woman walked past and I was overawed by her beauty. She looked neither left or right and I felt like an invisible observer. I am using it here only to illustrate the poem, who was she, what did she do? I don’t know , only that she is/was a fine photographic subject.

Vietnamese woman

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23 thoughts on “MIDWEEK POETRY: Flowers of Vietnam

  1. Raani York

    This is a beautiful and very emotionally strong poem Laurie. It makes me think a lot. And you’re right – the woman is absolutely beautiful!! You’ve got a wonderful eye for beauty!

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks so much again Raani. I like the deep poetry it makes people think. Yes she is/was beautiful and I think a great subject with her definite indifference and that slightly aloof look. I like to think so too.

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  2. bgbowers

    This is another powerful poem, Laurie. It reminded me of South Africa, and how vulnerable and ‘at war’ I was, just by simply being female, during my teenage years and up until I left at 23.
    Also, these lines …
    “Do you want to stare into eyes that have gazed
    dispassionately into those of a thousand other men?”

    Triggered this question….Does looking into the eyes of a Vietnamese woman remind Western soldiers of all the Vietnamese men they have killed?

    Random, I know, but I would say that it’s a sign of powerful poetry.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      There are few places in the world where people can walk peacefully.
      Re your question, No it didn’t for me. The Vietnamese men killed were either Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers, no remorse there. The VC like any other ideological guerrilla fighter were of the firm belief that the people were either with them or against them. They committed some terrible acts against their own people. Definitely no remorse for me.
      Thanks for the input Bianca. 🙂

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  3. hitandrun1964

    I’m glad to see you are writing. I hope your reality has improved considerably and that you are feeling a lot better. The poem probably means much different things to men and women. It’s very sad and too many women have to walk without looking up or from side to side. Women are always at war, no matter where they are.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      So am I, it’s keeping me sane. I think in my poem it is the women who have the power. From the Bar girl who provides a service that men want, to the woman in the paddy who fights at night. The woman in the photo stares ahead because I was a foreigner. Not from fear or submission, look at her face again. I saw indifference which to me speaks volumes about her place in life. No, the girl had grit.

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