In 2003, Hai-Dang Phan came from London to Certaldo, Italy to see me, and since then, we've hung out in Madison, Milwaukee, Dekalb, Chicago, Des Moines, Grinnell, Cedar Rapids and New York. This weekend, though, was his first time in Philadelphia. Here he's photographed in Jack's. Hai-Dang has published in the New Yorker and, soon, will have a poem in Poetry Magazine. Thirty-four-years-old, he's working on his first poetry collection. I believe it will be much talked about when it comes out.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF REENACTMENT
On day one the photographer walks into camp
and immediately starts shooting. She shoots us
at breakfast eating our c-rations, in our hammocks
reading Stars and Stripes. She shoots us in her sleep.
When we first cross paths at the creek, she says,
“Hello, Tiger! Nice combat boots. Is that thing real?”
pointing to my Special Forces jungle shirt.
“I’m afraid so,” I say nonchalantly, trying to mask
my satisfaction. Day two: no more messing around.
The photographer has agreed to join the action.
“So what’s the scenario?” A lone guerrilla left over
in a booby-trapped village jumps out of a hidey-hole
and ambushes the platoon on a search-and-destroy.
“Good thing I brought my black pajamas and sandals!”
What a trooper. She also plays the captured prisoner,
the native informant, and the beautiful turncoat.
The sniper girl is her favorite role because
it’s like taking pictures. “The beauty, the beauty!”
her voice volleys spookily from behind some rocks
as she picks off one of my men after another.
Sometimes the photographer shoots herself.
I know she must have her own personal baggage—
later I find her sobbing in the bamboo grove.
I tell her it’s okay, these wars only last three days.
“What will you do when it’s all over?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I say, “Plan the next one.”
On day three, after another routine patrol we sit
together on my favorite log, in the shade of oaks,
and devise more scenarios. The topo map
unfolds across our laps like a magic carpet.
She’s got killer bangs above camera eyes.
I mark all the booby traps and landing zones
as she speaks of controlled light and the hole
that opens up when you press the shutter button.
At twenty four hundred our hands nearly touch.
There was a meteor shower. I call in mortar fire.
[New Yorker, 2/16/15]