Drinks After Dusk: May 1961

Teresa Pham-Carsillo


We have so much champagne it hangs thick in the air,
Mr. Vice President, our bodies languid as poetry,
turned honey in your big-sky Texas drawl.

We sit on the cusp of a million deaths,
the boulevards perfumed with acacia blooms,
their petals like littered bodies, bruised underfoot.

Couldn’t you fall in love with a place like this,
Mr. Vice President? The repetitive song of street vendors,
cà-rem, cà-rem, cà-rem, like so many precious birds.

Silk-swathed beauties strolling arm-in-arm,
and in the city cinemas, Charlton Heston on his chariot.
Saigon in the spring is a woman worth saving.

And in Madame’s bedroom, tiger skins ripple,
burnished and lined-up head-to-head.

In the distance, you hear firecracker laughter,
the pounding endless feet of reed-limbed boys,
all cradling their cowboy guns close to the chest.

We toast to you on the roof of the Hotel Caravelle— 
milk glass ashtrays and crystal flutes, faces frozen
as we smile through a night trapped in amber.


Teresa Pham-Carsillo lives and writes in Oakland, California.