They say Nguyen translates as musician or musical instrument so I concede perhaps my artistry belongs to my ancestors.
My imagination has been formed by the confines of English in this white country. I take this opportunity to concede my losses; to only think of my stories through speech foreign to my heritage.
I concede to my grandmothers & grandfathers that I
should have learned our tongues before English.
My own skin is doused in bronze or olive,
I know no difference between mother &
father. Never shall I learn wisdoms from taps
flown fresh from mountaintops
& islands whose origins
purposes my breaths.
Of your faces, the one unknown to me–
abuelito, I only hear you in myth, spoken from
& I fear what would have happened if Nicaragua
never beckoned you back home.
They say Nguyen translates as musician or musical
instrument so I concede perhaps my artistry belongs to my
ancestors. I never knew Vietnam had ancient playwrights
& poets, since our faces still reek of wartime.
Nor had I come to realise our voyage
is an ode to the sea.
Our flesh binds those centuries spent tending
rice fields in valleys where sunlight shone golden. Perhaps the
gold sunk into our skin.
To my grandmother and grandfather–
bà ngoại, ông ngoại, to me
your names mean mistress of waves/master of wind.
I believe the tears that stream down your cheeks
are odes to the oceans you travelled for me.
Let your hearts afloat.
I wait to see you again abuelita, once I
return to Forestville you can remind me
of God’s blessings.
But I tell you,
I did not swirl from dust
& grow ribs to take form of man.
I concede, my bravery is a pool
for you to witness– for those rivers you behold,
I will never understand.