This afternoon, we had a faculty meeting, during which the vice-principal explained that we need to be nice to foreigners. This is because, “When Ho Chi Minh was in Wisconsin, he hated it. They weren’t nice to him. And that’s why we had the Vietnam War.”
I found this weirdly inspiring. For decades, I’d wondered why I fought in Vietnam, and now I had the answer — people are just not nice enough. Her remarks reminded me of a poem by Ernesto Cardenal in which a lonely Hitler waits for a young lady to pass. Below is my poem followed by Cardenal’s in Spanish:
for E. C.
every afternoon she’d stroll with her mother
along Mockingbird Lane and every afternoon
where Mockingbird crosses Bishop
Boulevard there at the corner
George Bush waited for her to pass
as university students learned how to kiss
and even the little children held hands
W. never learned how to dance
and he never dared a word with her
one day she passed without her mother
one day she passed with an ROTC cadet
then one day she didn’t stroll by at all
that’s why he bombed Iraq
that’s why he tortured anyone with answers
Todas las tardes paseaba
con su madre por la Landetrasse
Y en la esquina
de la Schmiedtor
todas las tardes
esperándola para verla pasar
Los taxis y los omnibus
iban llenos de besos
Y los novios alquilaban botes
en el Danubio.
Pero él no sabía
bailar. Nunca se atrevió
Después pasaba sin su madre
con un cadete.
no volvió a pasar.
De ahí más tarde
la anexión de Australia,
La guerra mundial.