Monday, April 12, 2004

tomorrow is day one of can't sleep won't sleep week.

moody, and slightly nervous. gonna give a lecture on the refugee experience and vietnamese/vietnamese american poetry in a few days, i'll have to represent some crazy dope viet poets... le minh thu, christian nguyen langworthy, bao phi, du tu le, thuong vuong-riddick, truong tran, jimmy thong tran, and more.

le minh thu, age thirteen

once mother told me.
"you were born in the Year of the Dog
and when the next Year of the Dog comes
you will be thirteen and strong enough
to help your father in the rice fields."

now I am thirteen
but have seen no dogs in our village:
"they would disturb the guerillas at night,"
my mother said, softly.

nor have I seen my father:
"he gave his life for the mountains and rivers of Viet Nam."
my mother said, weeping.

how I could interpret the events of my youth, events I do not remember except in dreams
christian nguyen langworthy

because I was newly adopted
child from another country
(a prostitute's son in a Vietnamese
city bristling with rifles
and as a result of my mother's truancy
from motherhood I was given
to nuns and locked within the confines
of missionary walls)
I crossed the perilous south china sea
and pacific in three days
(barely surviving anti-aircraft fire)
aboard an eight prop-engine plane.
I came to this country
to a nine-inch carpet of snow
and a sure welcome of strangers
engaged with the possibilities of parenthood.

my new beginning consisted of firsts:
first experience snowfall in America-
(how it was magic in a fairy tale land)
first toilet flushings,
(at the airport, when I flushed every
toilet in the men's room to my new
father's delight)
and another notable first-
the first cartoon I ever saw on saturday
morning: bugs bunny and elmer fudd,
and how there were no wounded or dead
from the flying bullets
and I laughed so hard I cried
though I did not understand their language then.

as the years of my second life progressed,
my adopted parents tried so to be
a good father and mother and to the cinema
we went, and I saw the children?s epics:

snow white and the seven dwarfs
and sleeping beauty; at home my mother read
fairy tales to me, tales like rumpelstiltskin
and I learned
the false beauty of the wicked witch,
the castle besieged by thorns,
the terror of the kidnapped son.
I could have told them I'd seen these tales
before, but I was too young to know the difference.