During Vietnam

During Vietnam

During Vietnam 1920 1440 Kelly Garriott Waite

During Vietnam, I sneaked into the pantry
to spoon powdered Tang® into my mouth,
this chemical concoction that stained my tongue
orange, and sure, the sugar was real as the astronauts

who drank it, convincing the mothers—who
saved Green Stamps in jealous purses, who
doled out dollars one at a time, who’d never
dreamt of debit cards—to buy it: who knows,

maybe one day their kid, too, would go to
the moon, become famous like The Napalm
Girl, who, in seventy-two, ran from the fire
down the empty street naked and screaming.

Untempered by water, it was like chewing
sand, a gritty blend of sickening sweet and
a tart that caused a twinge at the hinge
of my jaw. While Agent Orange burned all night,

I gazed through the leafless trees at the darkening
sky. What new madness will we embrace,
while eschewing debit cards, while scoffing
at the moon?

Header photograph © Charlotte Hamrick.

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