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Saturday, April 30, 2011


by Phyllis Wax

29 Apr 75 - Last American soldier killed in Vietnam (the first was 8 Jul 59).
The official American presence in Saigon ends when the last Americans are 
evacuated by helicopter from the US Embassy roof.

Planes flew out to spray and defoliate
the forest canopy hiding the enemy,
to destroy the crops—their food.
More than 20,000 sorties,
multiple missions to mist each area.
Spills from vats where the chemicals
were mixed saturated the ground,
seeped into the water.  Still in the water
people drink today.

Villagers replanted forests, farmed fields,
ate what they raised, ate toxic chickens,
toxic pigs, fish and shrimp from tainted rivers
and lakes.  Cancers and skin diseases
in those the fog descended on,
in those today who fish those rivers,
who work that land.

marked at birth: spina bifida,
grotesquely twisted arms and legs,
babies with two faces, three ears,
no eyes or eyes without lenses,
babies without arms, without legs,
babies whose legs each have two knees,
arms with two elbows.

More than forty years later it
Even into the third generation. Perhaps beyond.

Editor's Notes:
Agent Orange: Birth defects plague Vietnam; U.S. slow to help 

Agent Orange & Birth Defects  

Phyllis Wax muses on the news and history from a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, WI.  Her poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming from Your Daily Poem, Wisconsin Poets' Calendar, Ars Medica, Out of Line, Verse Wisconsin, Seeding the Snow, A Prairie Journal, The New Verse Newsand many other journals and anthologies.  She can be reached at poetwax(at)