Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Tuesday Poem: "Letter to Vietnam"

“He found the area very peaceful,”
his son said
after 92-year-old Thuyet Duy Chu
was found bashed to death.

No napalm falls in suburban Campsie*,
but could Bruce’s** ructions
have ignited the all-consuming fire of hatred?

With quiet dignity he stares out
from the newspaper photograph.
He could be anyone’s grandfather
save for an almost imperceptible impression
that he has lived with fear all his life.

His children saved to grant his wish
“to live in a civilised country”,
but five months later
Mr Chu’s blood dissolved the veneer of civiIisation.

No mortars pounded the back garden
where he read Vietnamese books.
No M-16s barked as he lovingly studied the photos
of his grandchildren in America
whom he planned to visit.
After surviving four wars,
he thought he had stepped out
of the shadow of violence.

Somewhere in Ho Chi Minh City
a tearful woman
clutches a bloodstained letter.
The climate of hatred never changes,
only the postmarks do.

*Campsie is a suburb in south-western Sydney, Australia, where there is a large population of immigrants from east Asia. See Wikipedia entry below:


** Bruce Ruxton was the President of the Victorian Returned and Services League from 1979 to 2002. He was a high-profile figure and a vocal opponent of multiculturalism. In essence, an unreconstituted racist and bigot. White Australians who feared "the yellow peril" found a champion in Bruce Ruxton. See Wikipedia entry below:


POET'S NOTE: I was inspired to write this poem several years ago when I was living in Australia and I read a newspaper article about Mr Chu's murder. It seemed a tragic irony that this man who had sought to live his remaining years in peace and with his extended family, had been brutally murdered 5 months after realising his goal. I never knew what followed from this murder, whether police found his killer or not. I cannot be certain what the killer or killers' motive was, but nothing was stolen. And at the time, anti-Asian sentiment was being fomented in the media by certain high-profile figures.


  1. How did I miss this poem last week? Unfortunately the subject matter makes it hard to love - but it is brilliant - thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Thanks, AJ. I think so-called "political" subjects should not be shyed away from in any form of art.