child of the enemy

I’ve seen thousands of Amerasians, and I have two Amerasian [children] of my own. Amerasians are willful and stubborn. They have serious identity problems. They have no discipline. Down the street at the Floating Hotel you’ll find Amerasian prostitutes plying their mothers’ trade. I think there’s a racial thing here, something genetic. 

—an American ex-soldier as quoted in Vietamerica


III. Child of the Enemy


I was born with a twelfth hole. Instantly
the floating world carved its shame
on the dark meat of my face. A love child, child of perfidy, allegiance
           split like a door.
I was born a traitor in the month of Cancer, the white phosphorus
pungent, knowing.



1973. The rice winnows out like shrapnel. Before it’s over
there are fifty thousand new hostilities, each birthed face inimical
as our fathers stealing home.



Think of the places women dilate. Beds. Barns. Saigon’s streets.
No good Samaritan comes forward and only the moon like a platoon 
treacherously approaching, its extended hand like a speculum, the better
to illuminate, disgrace.



                                                                                      Or more importantly
the places women leave. An unsuspecting caretaker. The bacterial streets.
                                                  perhaps the unspeakable pitch into burlap
and water.        A gulf off the South China Sea where another sinking form
is anyone’s guess.



That time Tet fell in the year of the snake. As in reptilian. As in 
no turning back. As in when I became
a child of containment. As in how like a monetary policy

I was loosed to an existence feral as a raised bayonet. As in
what the serpent might say: knowledge for knowledge’s sake
is both industrial and complex.



At birth
I was swaddled
in a blanket. Pink
wool. Threadbare.
Like everything else



Before the last vertical bird lifted like a gurney out of April
and twenty years clotted to a tumor brilliant as a stuck fish
and the dreams began in which you saw yourself as the killer
of trees, before the army finally said it was something in the water
and orange came to be the cloak of mourning, tell me soldier:
who taught you to love like a man, you with nowhere to go
but tacitly free?

“child of the enemy” from Asylum by Amy Quan Barry, © 2001. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.