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  • my father rarely speaks about his years in the labor camp
    the back bending years of seeding rice under a bristling sun
    his skin leathery and his face a skull the birdcage ribs
    the leeches deep in the swamp the scabs scarring his legs
    starving without sleeping the nights of reeducation where
    he confesses again and again his crimes against the people

    when he decided to escape into the wilderness
    while the other prisoners slept he walked
    all night as if a tiger crouched behind him
    in the darkness he groped along a river
    towards a road that he hoped would lead
    to freedom for the only other choice was
    a limbo life waiting for release or pardon

    they had told him only a few days but the days
    became weeks became months and now
    after three years he saw only a slow suicide
    he chose to risk his life rather than wait
    he prepared himself if caught he would swallow
    foraged poisons these dried mushrooms
    for he vowed he would not allow them
    to torture cram him inside that metal container
    a box they used to punished those who resist
    letting thirst and hunger decapitate their minds

    by morning he reached a road but
    the moment he stepped out from the jungle
    from the shadows he saw an army jeep
    careening towards him unable to move
    his willpower sapped when the jeep
    stopped his heart galloped while
    the old man in military garb stared:
    where are you going, why are you on this road?

    later no one will believe his story how he escaped
    that the old man a retired colonel drove him in the
    jeep from the wilderness more than 100 miles back
    to saigon that they breezed through the checkpoints
    easily for no one would suspect this communist veteran
    of aiding a class enemy and during the drive the colonel
    told him how his nephew was missing but they hoped
    that he was still alive not dead in some jungle grave
    by an American bomb you remind me so much of
    him the man says depositing my father in front
    of my mother's house driving away in a plume of smoke

    When all roads are barricaded, when all doors are locked
    i always remember my father's story.
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