Namaya - Writings, Podcast, Art & Musings.

My Lai Prayers Jan 2020

My Lai

Mothers were cooking rice porridge breakfast
on the wood stoves,
children laughing and singing, and
fathers getting ready to work in the rice paddies.
Then American soldiers
descended on this village
and in a few hours
they executed
504 men, women, and children.
The women and girls were raped.
War came and went, one conqueror after another,
the Chinese, French, Americans, but
the rice farmers’ life was largely immune to
the turns and twists of empires
except on that day, March 16, 1968.
Few soldiers showed remorse,
“We were following orders.” said the soldiers.
Few held to account for the murders,
and eventually, all the soldiers were acquitted.
What compels
soldiers to turn
into soulless creatures
devoid of humanity?
Today, fifty-one years later
I slowly walk through My Lai village
my eyes filled with tears.
I walk along the paths with the
footprints of the men, women, and children
fleeing in panic from the soldiers.
My steps are a prayer and meditation.
The sky is serenely blue.
Songs of the birds fill the morning air.
Are they the souls of the people killed?
The profusion of pink and purple flowers
and a hint of jasmine belies the tragedy.
There is a large brass Buddhist bell.
I toll this sonorous bell and light incense.
I am empty and alone with my thoughts
and the memories of these people.
I have no poetic or holy words
to heal the insanity.
There is only one word
that roars back to me
bio: Namaya is a poet and artist, a Vietnam era veteran, and a lifelong peace activist.

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