Poetry / June 2015 (Issue 28)

Sunday Dinner with the Loc Family on the Mekong River

by Jimmy Pappas

Sergeant Loc invites me to Sunday dinner on the Mekong River
with his parents and siblings. They live in wooden shacks

among a cluster of homes raised above the water on poles.
A three-foot wide pathway of slatted boards interlaces

this mini-village. For the first time in Saigon, I am afraid.
I have been prepared to get shot or blown up, but drowning

was never on my radar. It seems somehow inappropriate.
I picture myself falling off and complaining all the way down.

I see children, and I wonder how many others have already
fallen to their deaths playing some childhood game.

When we arrive at his residence, the father shows me
a chicken coop made of wire mesh. I watch the birds shit

right into the river. I make the decision to wait until I leave
rather than do the same. The father kills a chicken for me.

I feel guilty, both for the animal and for the family's loss. We eat
well, shovelling rice and meat into our mouths with chopsticks.

I am sated in the middle of such lack. For that one day, we are
filled with familial love, and I become their son and brother.

The next day in a tent city surrounded by a minefield, I will
again teach their son about killing things other than chickens.
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