Sunday, July 28, 2013

"The Napalm Girl", iconic Vietnamese photo and poems


How do we, as Americans, react to photographs of children our bombs have hurt or killed? Here are two poems about images of children caught in the horror of war. The first is a response to the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Kim Phuc, burned by napalm as she and her family run to escape the bombing of Trang Bang, Vietnam, in 1972. The second poem may be a response to the same image. More here.
Photo by Nick Ut

Too Hot, Too Hot
by Lisa Mullenneaux

We couldn’t play the dragon snake
We couldn’t go outside the temple
while the fat planes flew so we played
spinning tops, told each other stories
of what we’d do when the fighting stopped.

Run, soldiers shouted, the temple’s burning.
Trang Bang was burning, I was burning,
orange flames licking my bare arms,
licking away my cotton shirt, my shorts
and underpants until I was nothing
but a mouth screaming “Too hot, too hot,”
trying to outrun the dragon.

I lived. The doctors told my father “no,”
but I lived. Every minute in pain. When they
removed dead skin in the burn bath,
my childhood washed away. Something else
grew with the new cells grafted to my back.

Fame grew. I was “the Napalm Girl,”
image without a name. Can I tell my story?
There was once a village, there was once a girl.


War Photograph
by Kate Daniels

A naked child is running 
along the path toward us, 
her arms stretched out, 
her mouth open, the world turned to trash 
behind her. 

She is running from the smoke 
and the soldiers, from the bodies 
of her mother and little sister 
thrown down into a ditch, 
from the blown-up bamboo hut 
from the melted pots and pans. 
And she is also running from the gods 
who have changed the sky to fire 
and puddled the earth with skin and blood. 
She is running--my god--to us, 
10,000 miles away, 
reading the caption 
beneath her picture 
in a weekly magazine. 
All over the country 
we're feeling sorry for her 
and being appalled at the war 
being fought in the other world. 
She keeps on running, you know, 
after the shutter of the camera 
clicks. She's running to us. 
For how can she know, 
her feet beating a path 
on another continent? 
How can she know 
what we really are? 
From the distance, we look 
so terribly human. 


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