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and meanwhile on the streets of our old city there lay the bodies and abandoned vehicles, scattered, myriad, personal belongings and debris. So much death in one place in so short a time has left an afterglow of stunned quiet, a grave triumphant haze that deflects a rich and emphasizing

light on what remains :

a fey scene.

Roars of airplanes, buses, cars, military jeeps and motorbikes, the ubiquitous whir of helicopter blades, the cacophony of human panic that reached its apex some hours earlier now has subsided. Sound seems not to exist anymore. But the effects of adrenaline linger, as if a few molecules of it still zing back and forth in the air at an over-excited rate

like static or like disoriented swarms of bees or like the last boys found still fighting in Vung Tau City long past the final hour— swinging their empty rifles, firing their dry rounds, ineffectual; yes, but the detail is important more so as evidence —our tenacity even in futility— All those reverberations like an ultrasonic boom now stilled. Something has entered Earth in this time.

Through a portal located, here, at the southeastern edge of the continent on its relatively small, curved, sweltering tip —((the rivers that stream through this land are veins of drainage from a higher source))— a portal that perhaps was always here, only awaiting the intensity of action (human) that would Open it —and what is required to Open it? a number the death toll must reach?

a speed the collective heart rate must beat? and what shall we call (the thing) that enters when conditions allow it to? It is ancient and very strong. It labored and writhed; it thrashed and tore until at last it rent the fabric between this world and its own :

And is delivered.

Now it produces a strange, untimely quiet. It is resting. It knows it has arrived.

And the old city is changed by the new presence. We see differently: our souls now baring their true quests as just stark remote slivers of being seeking the edges only (the fine and dangerous edges) of each experience. This new vision is like the sky’s eye : it has no capacity for memory or judgment although it has seen Everything. Bodies lie where they fell.

Hundreds of faces frozen in final expressions. A temporary portrait of a collective death contract. But there are survivors to this picture, too. You might envision our population a wheel spinning, faster & faster, and as gravity is loosed its members are then scattered Some do not fly far but land still in the city where they will stay or may take flight later while others will fly much further to where eventually


they will stand again and wring the seawater from their clothes, dust the dirt from their knees, their palms, their faces, before looking around ((now)) with their new-formed Eyes.

You helped me cut the slits I needed; I helped you with yours. My soul knows the field but my mind still walks the perimeter.

And I am born into this era, the wake of our nation’s final of the eleven wars. A war my people win. Against the largest, most powerful, most decadent nation of the world—as one side of the histories will frame it. It is the war to end all of the previous repeating eras of war, they will say. But I do not get to stay amongst those “liberated.” I am one of those cast out in the transition, to become instead one of the expatriated. (It’s debatable whether you will call us the exiled or the self-exiled.) But this is how the Vietnamese identity was to re-cast itself in the latter part of the 20th century : now splintered, one-half still geographically rooted and dominant, the other free-floating, scattered across seas, fragmented into hundreds of thousands of individualities, to be absorbed, negated, or negotiated, across a vast assortment of geographies. Now we were travelers. We were seeds.

<You should know>, (they warned us before we set out), <there is both profound loss and tremendous opportunity in being one of those sent across divides.> ยง

This is an excerpt from ‘We Were Meant To Be A Gentle People (East EP)’ a music-literary EP & chapbook project by dao strom | the sea and the mother c. 2012 ………………………………………………………………………………………………..