ON SUNDAYS


rice paddy

ON SUNDAYS

On Sundays students who can afford to,
take English lessons to work

for parents who work
in English because English

is where the money is. But
she doesn’t teach English, Sundays

she walks two miles deeper
from the building, where she lives

with other teachers, to find
students weaving bamboo baskets

while watching younger siblings, then
walks between rice fields to

rice fields to find their parents.
And waits. At break or lunch

under a tree, she listens to them
say, the words don’t feed

the stomach. Yet she comes
so that by evening, when they arrive

home, they find her in the yard
drawing words on the dirt

while students work and watch
and say. Then they eat dinner.

Over rice and yam, boiled water
cress and salted radish, they find

other things that feed the stomach:
the height she’s gained with mud

sticking to her thongs; or, as the children
say it, their heads thrown back

in open-mouth laugh, the bamboo snapped
at her weaving; or the way “l”

is tall and skinny, and then “b”
is “l” with their father’s stomach. Soon

her students come to class
because the teacher is nice

and parents don’t want her
to walk so far on Sundays.

(Poem by Nhan Trinh)

NOTABLE & QUOTABLE


kissinger Henry Kissinger

Sen. John McCain’s toast at a 90th birthday celebration for Henry Kissinger in New York, June 2:

To do justice to the life and accomplishments of Henry Kissinger would take—as Henry would be the first to agree—a vehicle longer than my few brief remarks. A mere single-volume biography couldn’t really manage the task competently, could it, Henry?

So I’ll limit my remarks to recalling one anecdote that I think illuminates the character of my friend.

For several years, a long time ago, I struggled to preserve my honor in a situation where it was severerly tested. The longer you struggle with something, the more you come to cherish it. And after a while, my honor, which in that situation was entirely invested in my relations and the reputation I had with my fellow POWS, became not my most cherished possession, it was my only possession. I had nothing else left.

When Henry came to Hanoi to conclude the agreement that would end America’s war in Vietnam, the Vietnamese told him they would send me home with him. He refused the offer. “Commander McCain will return in the same order as the others,” he told them. He knew my early release would be seen as favoritism to my father and a violation of our code of conduct. By rejecting this last attempt to suborn a dereliction of duty, Henry waved my reputation, my honor, my life, really. And I’ve owed him a debt ever since.

So I salute my friend and benefactor, Henry Kissinger, the classical realist who did so much to make the world safer for the ideals that are its pride and purpose. And who, out of his sense of duty and honor, once saved a man he never met.