Watching World War Z

Hai-Dang Phan

Remember when dad said he killed zombies
for a living? Thanksgiving, we were all
downstairs watching World War Z. Brad Pitt
was stabbing every undead soul with the kitchen
knife he had duct taped to the end of a shot gun,
as he led his family to the tenement rooftop
in Newark where, of course, a helicopter awaited.
Outside the trees stood sentry and winter threatened
to launch its first assault on our nights and days
while another city succumbed on the plasma screen
where death was figured as an unwanted rebirth.
Which is when dad deadpanned the thing
about killing zombies at work and we laughed
in the dark not knowing what a botnet meant.
Shortly after, I think, you were the first to go,
though you lasted longer than anyone expected,
lumbering back upstairs to sleep just before
a tidal wave amazed the walls of Jerusalem
disintegrating a million mouths and limbs,
all aided by computer-generated imagery.
Incredible, the shapes a crowd can take:
pyramid, tentacle, and wave. The world,
for the most part, resembled ours. After all,
ours is an age of extremity, and zombie sci-fi
reflects and allays our world-wide anxiety.
Or so Susan Sontag would say, whom
I refrained from quoting because I pictured
your eyes rolling. (There he goes again.)
You also missed mom’s live commentary
on the chaotic scene at the besieged airport,
she said it was just like Saigon, April, 1975,
the smoking runway swarming with bodies,
the photogenic escape on the last flight out.
It must have happened in ultra-high definition,
those final days before they were mom and dad.
The other family was reunited in Nova Scotia,
svelt in parkas and ready to face the sequel.
That was November, 2013. We were at your
house in Madison celebrating Thanksgiving early
that year. There was another War on.
You were about to be a mother and slept
for a generation.