1) Did the people of Viet Nam use lanterns of stone? 2) Did they hold ceremonies to reverence the opening of buds? 3) Were they inclined to quiet laughter? 4) Did they use bone and ivory, jade and silver, for ornament? 5) Had they an epic poem? 6) Did they distinguish between speech and singing?
1) Sir, their light hearts turned to stone. It is not remembered whether in gardens stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways. 2) Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom, but after the children were killed there were no more buds. 3) Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth. 4) A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy. All the bones were charred. 5) It is not remembered. Remember, most were peasants; their life was in rice and bamboo. When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces, maybe fathers told their sons old tales. When bombs smashed those mirrors there was time only to scream. 6) There is no echo yet of their speech which was like a song. It was reported their singing resembled the flight of moths in moonlight.
The killings continue, each second pain and misfortune extend themselves in the genetic chain, injustice is done knowingly,and the air bears the dust of decayed hopes, yet breathing those fumes, walking the thronged pavements among crippled lives, jackhammers raging, a parking lot painfully agleam in the May sun, I have seen not behind but within, within the dull grief, blown grit, hideous concrete facades, another grief, a gleam as of dew, an abode of mercy, have heard not behind but within noise a humming that drifted into a quiet smile. Nothing was changed, all was revealed otherwise; not that horror was not, not that the killings did not continue,not that I thought there was to be no more despair, but that as if transparent all disclosed an otherness that was blessed, that was bliss. I saw Paradise in the dust of the street.