Aubade with Burning City's image
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Aubade with Burning City

Ocean VuongOcean Vuong June 16, 2020
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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.

           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.


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