My mother’s hair is a muddy black,
streaked with monsoon and tangled.
I walk through a tunnel, trembling.
Get this thing out of me.
My mother picks a bowl of jujube
before they turn brown and fall.
Would you let me leave you?
Would you let me try?
And I want you to say those words:
He did not mean it. He did not mean it.
To fly low and defoliate, to campaign
in the jungle, insisting we were worth it,
every mangrove root, every farmer,
every spray run, every Geneva Protocol,
every bulging eye on a persimmon head,
every orphan, every generation after that,
is that all I am to you, the offspring?
The one who made it out alive with you?
The babe who bit down too hard,
as Agent Orange rained from a helicopter?
And you will say that he did not mean it.
How can you say that mama?