"The Past" Contest Winners / September 2012 (Issue 18)

Sapphics for Hue  

by Ken Turner

                                       "Did we have to destroy it in order to save it?"
                                      –US Marine captain after the battle for Hue, 1968.
Ken Turner Dreamy city conjured by dragon kings, you
New-Year’s-partied even in war, and one year
firecrackers mixed with the ricochet of
bullets in temples.

Rebel colors hung from the ramparts, briefly.
In the Royal Quarter the groves and hedges
gave up green, the citadel abdicated
to the insurgent.

Roman fury powered the sack of Carthage.
Agamemnon’s passion and wrath undid Troy.
Block by block, whole districts were shelled and shattered
during your rescue.

Risen from the ashes and blackened timbers,
city of the phoenix, you spread your feathers:
red-and-ocher gateways and neon billboards
shimmer through drizzle.

What survives both water and flame? The scent of
jasmine, green moss softening pockmarked walls. A
tourist snapshot elephant circling round an
emperor’s garden.

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