by Katherine, 16
Keystone School, San Antonio, Texas

the jungle breathes, chokes;
hostile air filling its lungs—
Agent Orange, like a sunset, like the sun
that beats down upon the land, exposed
the jungle breathes, withers;
Vietnam is unclothed,
stripped bare, her mangrove forests rotten,
the soil steeped in dioxins
18,000 square miles sprayed,
500,000 acres of crops where rice could have grown,
where animals could have grazed,
how many hungry people
20 million gallons released like mist, like rain
the jungle breathes, drowns;
cries for its warped children, their lips
folded inwards, for the men who flew those planes,
for their bodies not the same
43 years; how many hundred will it take
until the cancers are scrubbed clean
until once more, the devastated areas are green—
the jungle breathes, shrinks,
claws at the ground, struggling not to disappear
the sun overhead is unforgiving,
the air dry without the humidity of the forest,
the low-lying vines, the bushy undergrowth;
who will cover the people,
these brown-skinned bent-legged people,
these wide-eyed, wondering people
the jungle breathes, breathes—dies.


Written in response to "Manatee/Humanity" by Anne Waldman