Bella Levenshteyn Engages with Her Critics/1

by Mark Chmiel

“Why are you people here?
Why are you making this fuss?”

“Sir, people are suffering, that’s why.”

“But people are suffering right here, too
I’ve got buddies who were sprayed
Why don’t you think of them or lobby for them?”

“Sir, if you know of any specific actions
we can involved in to care for our veterans harmed by Agent Orange”—-
Bella has the most poignant conviction pervading her face—-
“Let me know and we’ll join you”

The septuagenarian stood silent
Then Bella continued

“It’s true that at various times
the government and the corporations
have failed the veterans
But you must know
They’ve failed and harmed the Vietnamese many times more
After all it was they who bore the brunt of it
We’re standing here —
All these decades later not to ignore our veterans—
but to remember and respond to those harmed and still hurting in Vietnam
It’s not, I think, either/or, sir”

“Hal’s my name, your name is?”

“Bella, Hal, I’m Bella.”

“You got a business card or something?”

from novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

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