Summary Execution, Execution, Execution

1 March 2017


T.V. Dinner | Photograph | 39.5 in x 27 in | Christopher Ruane

In history’s continuum / every beginning is artifice /
every context is partial / every story is fragment /

each iteration a Chinese whisper / transforming /
history sieved and remade /

the way time works a landscape out of recognition /
as when / a camera records a summary execution /

in a Saigon street in 1968 / swift / brutal /
outstretched arm holding a gun / to a man’s head /

and in one frozen moment / image overwhelming context /
speaking to itself / above / the background murmur /

of killings / and retribution / before the spattering /
of every thought / feeling / aspiration /

before the crumple to the road / and the pooling /
blood / terror writ large on a man’s face /

eyes closed / arms tied behind his back /
never knowing or caring /

about the immortality of his death /
broadcast across the world / on televisions /

in kitchens and dining rooms /
the instant of cessation / repeated / on thousands /

of black and white screens /
in front of one of which / a boy / eating dinner /

watches his father’s wild enthusiasm /
his punch in the air / his jubilation /

as if a gold medal was won / in the last instant /
victory snatched from defeat /

death and jubilation clasped together /
in the boy’s heart / the young man’s heart /

the middle-aged man’s heart /
until disgorged in a poem in 1994 /

Remember That Vietnamese Guy They Shot On TV In 1968 /
published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette /

and read by thousands more / echoes of echoes /
some readers remembering / others discovering /

neither perpetrator / or victim / now named /
the event / re-imagined / gathering longevity /

rippling through time / and the poem too /
surfacing again / in 2015 / flint sparking /

a photographer’s imagination / prompting /
a response / that goes beyond / event /

and poem / that seeks / to collate /
into one photograph / a whole album /

of brutalities / juxtaposed / images /
of the Vietnam War / with / American domesticity /

an old television set / showing / a dining room /
kitchen / three adults / seated at table /

a plain / white tablecloth / and behind them all /
a television / turned on / a fridge / a wall clock /

in the foreground / a young / blond-haired girl /
carrying / a dark-haired doll / leaving /

the room / her head / and eyes / looking downwards /
whilst / stretching out / behind her /

the height of a door / and onto the ceiling /
an elongated / shadow / arms held out / from body /

signifying / the young / Napalm Girl /
seared / into the collective / consciousness /

of a generation / and a woman / pouring tea /
arm outstretched / towards a man / in a singlet /

echo of the arm / holding the gun / echo /
the third adult / an elderly man / on fire /

flames / at his feet / spreading / across floor /
and rising / in a fireball / above him /

symbolic / of the burning monk /
and what I see / viewing this photo /

at an exhibition / in 2016 / is the insistent /
entry / of conflagration / into our homes /

into our lives / how the fires / of brutality /
burn / into us / make us participants /

complicit / all of us / rats / on history’s wheel /
running / for safety / though there will be none /

if the fires turn / if we find / ourselves /
suddenly / in our own / frozen moment /

with the flames / upon us /
and then / this poem / and then / you / and then


Notes:
Remember That Vietnamese Guy They Shot On TV In 1968 by Chris Yeager,
published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette May 14, 1994 exhibited
January 16 – February 27, 2016 at PANZA Gallery, and reproduced in the anthology
titled Verse Envisioned: Poems From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette And Works
Of Art They Have Inspired
.

T.V. Dinner by Christopher Ruane exhibited January 16 – February 27, 2016
at PANZA Gallery, and reproduced in the anthology titled Verse Envisioned:
Poems From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette And Works Of Art They Have Inspired
.

For more information regarding the original photo of the execution and the
accompanying footage see Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nguyễn_Ngọc_Loan, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nguyễn_Văn_Lém, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Adams_(photographer).

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