City Love

In those days, at every corner of the city
you could find a coffee shop.

There was never a high-rise building,
everything stood together in an unorganized manner,
for they never mastered the art of urban landscaping.

Street vendors had their own way of singing
their promotion songs. You remembered the tune, the words,
which reminded you of those streets.

The sounds of vehicles and their horns and the winds
never stopped. But in those days, they used to be
purer. Clearer. More innocent, perhaps. Less troubled.

Life never stops being tough,
but it was quite beautiful,
then.

When I grew up
the city was still left with fragments of history.
I had no memory of what had happened before I was born,
yet you felt in the air the gentle sadness, and the subtle beauty
from those French buildings. The architecture
slowly faded away as icons from the war,
becoming part of our modern life.
We had to move on,
and so did everyone who had left.

Those buildings, instead, became icons of my childhood,
of what I remembered about the city.
From my elementary school,
you could see the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica to your left,
the Central Post Office right in front of you.
I was always taken home via the street former known as
the Rue Catinat.

I would never forget the way it felt every afternoon.
I’m going home.

Those places have changed, and so have people,
and so have I.
The day they demolished Givral Cafe,
Xuan Thu Bookstore, Passage Eden,
the whole street block of memories,
was the day many of us lost something so deep in our heart.
History was gone once again.
And soon enough,
we would allow ourselves to forget once again.

I keep reminding myself,
Hey, it’s ok to change.
My city does not repond to me.
It just becomes so foreign,
as if it has always belonged to somebody else
but me. And I keep digging
into the dust, the traces, the pictures
to find solace in what I could remember
about my changed lover.

They say, in the end it does not matter,
modern society needs revolutions.
Evolutions. Higher skyscrapers. Highways.
A North-South express railway even (Idea rejected.)
We need to catch up with the rest of the world.

Oh, dear men, I am fine with that. I am an easy fellow
who seldom feels too strongly about anything in particular.
But my heart keeps aching from some changes you guys make.
It outraged the day you took down my corner of memories.
I was in Boston reading the news my friends sent me,
picturing myself sitting at those steps in front of the Opera House
looking at the mass of broken bricks and dust
that was once a nice, little, iconic coffee shop-
Givral.

When my friend talked to me about changes around that block,
she talked in a tone that almost seemed guilty.
She did not know how to break the news to me
without also breaking me apart.
For just a few months before that,
we were walking down Dong Khoi Street (the Rue Catinat, if you may),
taking pictures of the Opera House,
Givral Café, the Continental Hotel,
joking of how we acted like tourists.

Try being a tourist in your own city.
It means seeing everything with a fresh set of eyes,
trying to record everything,
trying to grasp the essence of everything
within a short amount of time.
I guarantee you it is fun.
And it will reinvigorate your love,
your understanding, your hope.

I was disappointed with some decisions others made.
Yet, being a city girl,
I was raised to adapt to them.
To learn that there will be thousands of other coffee shops
bookstores
landmarks
so many choices to overwhelm me
to drive me away from the time
when I had so few.

Will it eventually work? I do not know.
But that corner of the street (now demolished),
that corner of memory (now fading),
I was there.
Yes, I was there.

 

 

 

 

 

I will definitely make further edits to this, but I’d like your inputs on the word flow, grammar, construction/order of ideas, etc.

I haven’t been away from my city for long, but the changes have been quite drastic recently. The coffee shop mentioned, Givral Café, was built in 1950 during our French colonization period. Ever since it has been a legendary place where many international journalists and writers and others meet. It was taken down on April 2010.

I was born years after the Vietnam War was over, so my memories are not really associated with anything war-related. My childhood was spent around the city center with French architecture around (the Cathedral and the Post Office are still there; the Opera House was renovated, but the whole street block of Givral and Passage Eden I mentioned is now gone.)

There is not much and there is too much to say about that city. I often find it either too difficult or too easy to write about it. You probably feel the same way about something or someone you’re in love with. All the words could be dedicated, yet none would be satisfying enough.

written 04 August 2010

Loss of A Masterpiece

what are these creatures of the night
that keep invading my dreams,
poking my ribs and neck,
throwing me back to our dark times,
of when we dyed our eyes
with memories of death?

you brought me a masterpiece,
then took it away from me.
how did I survive my resentment,
rage, and hopelessness?
how did I survive the loss
of your perfection?

we forgot, we forgot to change
the sadness at that moment –
the night when you saw me
purple and gray and empty
and I saw you blank like a page,
we lost each other in a heartbeat.

and we lost our masterpiece.
it could have outgrown us,
could have flown beyond our flesh,
and would have nothing to do with us.
it could have been on its faraway path
and, perhaps, would even be happy.

written 08 September 2010

I will soon lose my mind

Even when I am not thinking of you,
I am always thinking about you.
The shadow of the thought involving you
is enough to make me smile,
give me hope, let time slide
down the sides of my eyes
along with the most bitter of my tears
So what remains is no longer fear;
just a calmness I have never felt before
as I slowly set myself on an endless desire
Maybe you really are
my life.

Maybe I need nothing else
but a short moment of truth
masked with expectations
and prior experience.
Maybe you need nothing else
but a single audience
who can never demystify any of your tricks
Maybe all we need is a mutual feeling
or rather, the exact same wish.
What do I know if you never tell?
It is hard, so hard to believe
either of us deserves any of this
We finally see, with our own eyes,
what it is like to be seen
how it feels like to be held
where it hurts the most to be loved.

I doubt I truly feel any of this.

Maybe I’m just too full of shit
to actually know
how to return your love.
But I do not mind, and nor do I care,
when I am with you life seems utterly fair
and makes perfect sense
I would never have to ask
if you are feeling the same way I do.

Even if life stopped right here
I would not be so upset
for my only regret
would be just one:
I could never tell you before I die
how much you make me want to stay alive
in this world
this very world

For A.
who brought out the darkest in me
and perhaps I would never come back

written 09 November 2010

Lazy day with a touch of suspense

one day, he woke up,
and the day felt like a thousand others.
he reached for the phone and texted her.
she did not respond.
maybe work was busy, he thought.
the day went by. he put
lots of creamer and sugar
in his coffee. the coffee spilled
over the counter, dripped
onto the floor. he sighed and
wiped it carelessly, so it smeared
into brown patches and lines.
he got a book and started to read.
then he put it down and grabbed the phone again.
still no reply from her. he sent another text, asking
where she was. maybe she was very busy, he thought.
the afternoon arrived. he took a nap.
got into a bad dream. something happened,
he forgot. he almost always forgot why
he had cried hopelessly in such dreams.
she still did not write him back.
he wondered if he should call her.
but maybe not.
she got annoyed when work was busy and he called her and she could not talk right away, for she would not stop wondering what it was that he wanted to talk about. and it would probably lead to a small argument, which would lead to bigger arguments, which would end up with her being in tears and him feeling guilty, which would end up with them trying to make it up with sex, which would end up with him not being able to come, which would end up with her feeling upset because he could not come, and him feeling incompetent because she could not come either, and them being all melancholic and what not, and so on and so forth.
so he decided it was best not to call her.
she did not come home at the usual hour.
he kept glancing at the door, peaking his ears to noises from the street
the way a dog waited for its owner to be home at a certain time.
with every passing minute he grew more and more worried.
he texted her again. then immediately after called her.
and he called and he called and he called.
it kept going into voice mail.
he hated voice mail. he left her a few messages.
no responses.
she got home a few hours after,
looking tired as usual. apologized for being late.
said traffic was bad, then she got too hungry she
stopped at a diner and had a quick bite.
she wanted to call him but there was no reception.
her phone was acting up.
something like that.
he did not really smell food from her
not that he had enough time to take a sniff
for she had gone straight to the bathroom
to take a shower. when she got out,
he was sitting at the table, staring into the air
into nothing. her scent was soft, familiar,
and he could feel her smile and gaze upon him.
she sat down and kissed the side of his forehead,
asked him if he had eaten dinner.
he said he was not hungry. she took his hand,
placed her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes.
they sat still for a few minutes. then he asked
if she wanted anything from the fridge.
i would have some apple cider, she said.
he got them some apple cider. they drank it.
then she said let’s go to bed.
he followed her. they got into bed,
turned the head lamp off, kissed each other good night,
and closed their eyes.
he wondered what was on her mind.
she wondered what was on his mind.
and they kept wondering
until they both
fell asleep.

written 30 November 2010

One autumn night my heart was brought home

You’re always somewhere else.
I’m never here.
What is the chance of us ending up
together?

And yet it happened one autumn night
right upon our curious lips,
in between our intertwined fingers,
as the candle flickered to tell us
where we were. I forgot our spacetime
as you slowly broke opened
my heart. You found your way in
and for the first time I felt comfortable
being exposed, vulnerable, explored,
entered. Your growing presence became
more and more filling. I’d never known
I had so much emptiness.
It was my first time
feeling lonely no more
in the world.

Thank you for having brought
my lost little heart home
with yours.

 

For A.
Thanks for having held my hands.
written 06 December 2010

Requiem for the Living

early evening. it gets very dark by six p.m. in the winter.
just finished washing the dishes and putting some into the dishwasher.
n. said be careful not to rub too hard or the teflon would come off.
he was upset when i used a fork to scrape food residue on the bottom of a pot.
a. is on the phone constantly on the phone he hated customer service of a major wireless provider i shall not name (but you all know which one that is.)

he was on the phone with them yesterday too when i was in the er
a. on the cab to hospital, “what if you are pregnant?”
me, “well fuck. decision’s mine.”
a.,”I’m anti-abortion.”
talking like a true ex-republican, the love of my life.

the doctor was a bit too rough,
the nurse told me i was a big girl doing big girl thing i had to deal with the consequences.
shit, i thought, this was still good, i thought i was losing my baby. our baby.
there was no baby, they said.
maybe it was gone, i thought.
a. and i could not have been happier
and more disappointed.

he could not leave this place because of
his dog. told me maybe i should move in.
i hate that dog because it jumps onto our bed at night
trying to separate us. it has huge attachment and jealousy issues
just like i do. so i guess i could be sympathetic, but good god jesus,
it was watching us making love, having sex, fucking
and only turning away whenever i gave him a blow job.
what is the deal with that dog?

a. has two people he considers angels,
m. and g.
beautiful people – mates of his soul.
me, he sees me as a human being,
told me even his dog was more beautiful
than me, that he was really careful with his words
but i was the one who thought we had something called a
re-la-tion-ship.
then i got upset he was not in the same
relationship i thought we were in.
why would someone tell me he loved me wanted to marry me spend the rest of my life with me fuck the shit out of me without protection
but not admitting we are in a relationship
and that he is in a soul-to-soul connection with his angel from l.a.
gorgeous woman who wants to become a nun
who shares everything in common with him
who cannot really be friends with him but
probably cannot date him because she has expectations he can never fulfill.
yet he thinks she is a firm believer in him,
told me i made him feel depreciated,
that i only appreciated him because he was
mine.

well shit, he was never mine
can’t he see that after all that is known about him his angel decided to maintain an out-of-a-novel friendship while i decided to stay with him?
can’t he see what’s real and what’s not? i guess not;
my man does not belong to the real world.
i was not either, but i was beaten almost to death by reality,
i forgot how it felt to be me,
how it felt to want something just for myself regardless of the other people, beloved or not, no matter whom.
marry me, i asked. he said yes, then “i need to think about it”, then “no no no…”
you know why? because he will only do so if he will never ever have a chance at romance with his angel.
who first thought she was so cool there was no romance ever.
then when he told her he was marrying me in a few days, she said
she was wrong that they could behave as friends and she was sorry
but she was truly wishing we would be happy.
seriously,
WHAT. THE. FUCK?

my love, my purest love,
i just want to make sure for the rest of my life i could
try my best to make you happy, and hopefully you will be.
why do i feel so obligated?
is it because one night you had me in your arms, looking deep into my lost heart, touching my lips so softly, telling me you
loved me?
is it because i believe my life should end right here so a new one – including you and probably our miracle children and who knows who else – could begin. so i do not have to live mine any more.
it has never been mine anyways, but i just think,
maybe having you will make it a little less cold less lonely less uneventful.
and maybe i really do love you more than anybody else in this world.
maybe i want to die with you.
maybe the moment i am on my death bed – if i even have a bed then – you will fully realize how much i have loved you all my life.
maybe i will cry whenever you make a scene out of nothing, slam the door shut, and go out for a while doing your things, and i will cry and cry as i clean the dishes and do the laundry and try to calm down my hysterical babies,
and you will come home and go straight to bed without brushing your teeth and starting to snore loudly,
and the next morning everything would be okay.
maybe you will hold me close every now and then
and i will remember why things happen the way they do
why my everlasting unhappiness is joyful
from moment to moment
between the times I try to hold on to something
something about life
to hell with finding a meaning in living,
i am already so very tired.

but back to reality
i need to figure out what’s up for dinner
soon.

 

 

 

this is a story I’m writing.
I just find more comfort in this form rather than prose.
for now.
written 17 December 2010

Lost

What if you lost me to the other side of the Earth?
What if you were always the dark side of my heart?
We move in the same direction but we never meet
We only share mutual passion in our own heartbeats

What if you left everything behind
while I left everything forward?
Our shoulders touch and I turn away
Only to feel your hand guiding me back right under your face

What if you had left me die in my sleep?
You would stay alive, for me you would weep
One day someone else would come your way
You would reach for her hand and ask her to stay

It will be okay you say, it will be okay
For love to exist only in this fate
We wipe our tears to laugh out loud
Our misery is our eternal vow

We dance, fight, drag each other to the ground
The pain all over my body makes me aroused
As long as you are there I have someone to blame
We play the game of putting each other to shame

I am dead only because you are too
Look how much life we need to go through
Light another smoke, let this day burn out
Let me remember love the way I do now

For A.

How deep can our darkness go?

written 20 December 2010