My dear Vietnam,
when I left you I could not speak.
A child could only watch as waves
melted from your burning shores
my face, an apparition.
On that day in that hut
you quietly soaked
my mother’s blood.
In your palms I breathed the world.
You must remember.
Vietnam, I can only tell you
through the courage allowed
by ink, paper, the infinite depths of whiteness.
My heart spills at the spout.
I write beneath banners whose stars
have lost their stitches, falling in pearls
of fire on the roofs along your spine.
If tears could wash
the blood within your roots
I would weep each night
I curl into cotton
How thin you sleep, your fruit
poisoned with Orange, your rivers
blistered with the skulls
who lost their dreams.
I did not think of you, as I sucked
on lollipops and drooled
at Happy Meals. But did you know
I always saw your eyes inside
these filthy mirrors?
Forgive me; I have only traced
the path given. These eyes have learned
to melt when brushed
with the simplicity of pleasure.
As I filter through folds of memory,
hording your valleys, your forests, your people
into this skull’s dusty chamber,
there is too much left to be said
and no language to pronounce
You and I, two shadows reaching
for the soles of feet. I bury these hands
into dirt, feeling for your whispers.
Cradled in my palms: a morsel of earth
that could be you. Here is a planet
intact through sinews of withered roots
am the one to crumble.
From the Spring/Summer 2009 Issue of the Kartika Review. Sorry I couldn’t capture the correct line spacing! See the original here.