America: Returns

America, it's been a while
since we've taken visitors 
downtown to the memorial 
of the general who wore 
his sunglasses like he was 
in a commercial and not 
that southeast Asian theatre
of war where soldiers impaled 
babies on bayonets, thrust 
their dicks into peasant women
and, in the heat of April, set 
thousands of gaunt prisoners 
of war on the long march from 
Bagac and Mariveles to Camp 
O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. 
The docents will point out 
the general's effects 
and the famous picture 
of his dramatic Leyte landing:  
striding knee-deep into the surf 
as cameras click away. America, 
this is you with your stern jaw,
somehow dwarfing both the archipelago's 
president and the little statesman 
barely five feet and four inches 
in his dress shoes; this is you 
saying I have returned. By the grace 
of Almighty God our forces stand 
again... in the blood of our two 
peoples. After Liberation Day, 
my father, already in his early
thirties, climbed up a tree
so he wouldn't have to share 
three whole bars of Hershey's 
milk chocolate. As they rumbled
into town in their jeeps, American 
soldiers had thrown these and packs 
of nylons by the handful at people 
running and cheering alongside. 
My father laughed, recalling 
that he'd staged his own kind 
of liberation in the bushes. 
O America, you've left and
returned but have also never
left. Your companies continue
to harvest ore and tobacco
and pineapples. You play war 
games in Apocalypse Now sets 
of jungles, then go off-base 
to pick up bar girls in Olongapo 
or Angeles. Some of them wind up
like the tragic heroine in that 
typical operatic ending: she 
takes her life because the foreign
hero who was supposed to return 
left on a boat to find himself
a real American wife. 
 

    



 

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