Burning Air

Written for:  Poems of Garden Gnome:  Project #1 – Connection
“Welcome to the first installment of our poem projects. It hopes to be a series of works that require a bit more thought, some research, and a fair amount of re-writing to get it just write! And so we begin…

Welcome to the first installment of our poem projects. It hopes to be a series of works that require a bit more thought, some research, and a fair amount of re-writing to get it just write! And so we begin…

A while back, I came across a poem by Ocean Vuong entitled, “Aubade With Burning City”. The prelude to his piece describes:

“South Vietnam, April 29, 1975: Armed Forces Radio played Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” as a code to begin Operation Frequent Wind, the ultimate evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese refugees by helicopter during the fall of Saigon…
The concept that he used took randoms lines of the song as heard and had interwoven them into his poem. The result was a strikingly enhanced bit of poetics. Through this process he was able to connect his poem to the classic words of Berlin’s timeless classic to tell a very different story.”

Aubade with Burning City By Ocean Vuong

South Vietnam, April 29, 1975: Armed Forces Radio played Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” as a code to begin Operation Frequent Wind, the ultimate evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese refugees by helicopter during the fall of Saigon.

“South Vietnam, April 29, 1975: Armed Forces Radio played Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” as a code to begin Operation Frequent Wind, the ultimate evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese refugees by helicopter during the fall of Saigon.”

Aubade with Burning City
By Ocean Vuong

Milkflower petals on the street
like pieces of a girl’s dress.
May your days be merry and bright …
He fills a teacup with champagne, brings it to her lips.
Open, he says.
She opens.
Outside, a soldier spits out
his cigarette as footsteps
fill the square like stones fallen from the sky. May all
your Christmases be white as the traffic guard
unstraps his holster.
His hand running the hem
of  her white dress.
His black eyes.
Her black hair.
A single candle.
Their shadows: two wicks.
A military truck speeds through the intersection, the sound of children
shrieking inside. A bicycle hurled
through a store window. When the dust rises, a black dog
lies in the road, panting. Its hind legs
crushed into the shine
of a white Christmas.
On the nightstand, a sprig of magnolia expands like a secret heard
for the first time.
The treetops glisten and children listen, the chief of police
facedown in a pool of Coca-Cola.
A palm-sized photo of his father soaking
beside his left ear.
The song moving through the city like a widow.
A white …    A white …    I’m dreaming of a curtain of snow
falling from her shoulders.
Snow crackling against the window. Snow shredded
with gunfire. Red sky.
Snow on the tanks rolling over the city walls.
A helicopter lifting the living just out of reach.
The city so white it is ready for ink.
The radio saying run run run.
Milkflower petals on a black dog
like pieces of a girl’s dress.
May your days be merry and bright. She is saying
something neither of them can hear. The hotel rocks
beneath them. The bed a field of ice
cracking.
Don’t worry, he says, as the first bomb brightens
their faces, my brothers have won the war
and tomorrow …
The lights go out.
I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming …
to hear sleigh bells in the snow …
In the square below: a nun, on fire,
runs silently toward her god —
Open, he says.
She opens.
***
A very powerful expression, the softness of a fallen snow and the harshest realities of a war torn town. A contrast; a connection.

Here is my attempt:

Choking here, dear. The air is heavy.  You know . . .
                                         smoke gets in your eyes.
American Medical Association  frowns on it, so stop the bombing . . .
You give me fever.  . . . I feel my face flush with . . .
heat waves–not the pleasure-filled kind, no,
the kind that crinkles your face into a soup mask.  Hope you are not feeling lucky tonight.
We have word that there is no . . .
                                  fire down below. Innocent people are screaming . . .
                                                                                 “I’m on fire . . .
The air smells of burning flesh.  Think . . .
                                                                               fire and rain.
Let fresh water of peace soak you. Give up this bloody battle . . .                                                                                                    here comes the sun.

For this poem, I used the following songs:

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

“Light My Fire”

“I’m on Fire”

“You Give Me Fever”

“Fire Down Below”

“Fire and Rain”

“Heat Wave”

“Hot-Blooded”

https://poemsofgardengnomes.wordpress.com/

About purplepeninportland

I am a freelance poet, born and bred in Brooklyn, New York. I live with my husband, John, and two charming rescue dogs–Marion Miller and Murphy. We spent eight lovely years in Portland, OR, but are now back in New York. My goal is to create and share poetry with others who write, or simply enjoy reading poetry. I hope to touch a nerve in you, and feel your sparks as well.
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