The Girl in the Picture
POETRY FORMAT, 13 Nov 2017
for Phan Thi Kim Phuc
We have seen this picture multiple times over the years, but it was just this past fall that I found out that the little girl, Kim, was nine years old when she was scarred for life. My granddaughter was nine this past fall. I wrote this poem below out of deep remorse and with a glimmer of hope — perhaps, just perhaps, there can be some forgiveness bestowed upon us if we accept our responsibility for the suffering we have caused, and if we live our lives struggling to put an end to war.
“Whatever you run from becomes your shadow.”– traditional
If you’re a namvet, a survivor of sorts,
she’ll come for you across the decades
casting a shadow in the dying light of your dreams,
naked and nine, terror in her eyes
Of course you will have to ignore her —
if you wish to survive over the years —
but then your daughters will turn nine
and then your granddaughters nine
As the shadows lengthen.
So, you will have no choice on that one night
screaming down the Ridge Road, lights off,
under a full moon, she standing in the middle of the road,
still naked and nine, terror in her eyes
Now you must stop to pick her up, to carry her back
home to where she came from, to that gentle
village where the forgiving and the forgiven
gather at high noon. There are no shadows.
Doug Rawlings is one of the founders of Veterans for Peace.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Nov 2017.
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