Falling leaves seem so full of freedom
dying on the Autumn wind
Full of color
Like a saffron monk on fire
In the streets of Saigon
No one understands
Photographer Malcolm Browne, best known for capturing on film the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk in the early days of what would become the Vietnam War died on Monday, August 27th, 2012. He was well known for claiming to have been shot down in aircraft at least 3 times and thrown out of more countries than many people ever visit. My poem, "Saigon Autumn" was inspired by his photos which I first encountered growing up in Michigan during the 1980s.
On June 11, 1963, an elderly monk named Thich Quang Duc, clad in just his robe and sandals, assumed the lotus position on a cushion in a blocked-off street intersection. Aides drenched him with aviation fuel, and the monk calmly lit a match and set himself ablaze. Of the many foreign journalists alerted to the shocking political protest against South Vietnam's U.S.-supported government, only one, Malcolm Browne of The Associated Press, showed up.