books/friends

tôi thèm được đi hội sách nhà sách

có thể lang thang cả ngày coi sách

thích sờ giấy sách

mê nghe mùi sách

khoái lật mở coi sách muốn nói gì và nói như thế nào và đằng sau những con chữ đó có thể là ai:

người ở lục địa khác

người ở thời điểm khác

người đã gặp

người chưa từng gặp

chỉ trên trang giấy này gặp gỡ nhau

nhiều khi chỉ một vài giây thôi

nhiều khi cả một đời:

không quan trọng. đôi lúc chỉ một lời

làm tất cả mọi khoảng cách đó biến mất

và càng đọc thì càng cảm thấy sự hiện diện của người đã gửi gắm phần không thể chết của họ vào ngôn từ.

biết bao bạn hữu của tôi đã chết rồi

khi tôi gặp được họ, nên khi đọc sách của họ

tôi nghe niềm sống của bạn mình

cách nhau trăm năm tuổi cũng không can hệ gì

vì chỉ biết nhau qua tâm tình mà thôi,

và những khi tôi nằm mơ xem họ kể về thế giới mà họ hình dung được tạo dựng được

vượt qua được mọi giới hạn của vật lý địa lý duy lý

sống muôn ngàn cõi trong một cái chớp mắt dài hơn triệu kiếp người.

khi mở mắt ra tôi vẫn là người

nằm cạnh tôi là trang sách mở

tôi nghe mặt mình ướt lệ

bạn vừa đó thôi bạn lại đi rồi

chỉ còn giấy mực ghi dấu lại…

_____________________________________

I want to go to book fairs, bookshops

I can wander all day looking at books

like to touch paper from books

love the smell of books

enjoy flipping open the page to see what those books want to say and how they say it and whom it could be behind those words:

people on another continent

people from another time

whom I have met

whom I’ve never met ever

only on this page have we encountered each other

sometimes for just a few seconds

sometimes for a whole lifetime:

it’s not important. sometimes only one word

makes all that distance disappear.

and the more I read, the more I feel the presence of the person who put the immortal parts of themselves into words.

so many of my friends already died

when I met them, so when I read their books

I hear the livingness of my friends

hundreds of years’ difference in age did not matter

because we only know each other through matters of the heart

and when I dream they tell me about the world they envision being created

beyond all limits of physics geography rationality

thousands of lives lived in the blink of an eye, longer than a million lifetimes.

when i open my eyes i’m still human

lying next to me is an open book page

I hear my face wet with tears

you’ve just been here now you’re gone again

only in paper and ink does your mark remain…

When we are rectangular

It’s an illusion.

It’s an illusion that we are apart.

It’s an illusion that I am here, and you are there, and our hearts beat slower alone.

It’s an illusion that behind the screens we can hide from the sadness of our souls and share only the sunny parts.

I can cry onstage too.

I can cry on Zoom.

I can cry even when there is a bright smile on my face.

I can cry even when the tears refuse to make themselves known to the earth.

It’s an illusion that we are not who we really are, when we are rectangular,

When we need to navigate our interactions with buttons

When we need to mute and unmute ourselves, consciously

Unlike when we are in the same room together.

It’s an illusion that this is not real,

It’s an illusion that this ever is

We can be together even when we are apart

We can be apart even when we are together

It is in moments like this that I realize many things that used to matter do not matter anymore

And for good reason, and it will be fine to go forward like this

Because there is no way back anyway, and whatever life hands to us

We will take it like the champions that we don’t usually know ourselves to be

And take it for as long as life allows us to.

It’s an illusion that this will forever last

It’s an illusion that there will ever be an end

thăm nhà cô làm gốm 11/2021

Đi đâu? Cuối ngày rồi,
những con đường đã trở thành quá cũ.
Đến đây, tôi nhìn thấy một ngôi nhà xây năm 1745,
tường sơn vàng, viền xanh lá,
bên một căn nhà kho đỏ sậm
với những khung cửa sổ nghiêng và kính vỡ,
như thể thời gian đã ngả vào đó
từ rất lâu rồi.
Tôi nghe tiếng xe từ phía xa lộ,
gần rồi xa, không dừng lại
như lịch sử không dừng lại
như chúng ta đã trễ hẹn với ngày mai.

Tôi tới, tôi im lặng
ngắm ngọn lửa từ từ dâng lên
trong một chiếc lò tự xây
của một người làm gốm
đến sống ở đây hồi đầu tháng mười một
sau khi bão tuyết tạt ngang bang Texas
và cô nhận ra mình không biết cách sống chung với mùa đông như thế nào.

Nên cô học cách tự sưởi ấm mình từ Montana,
và tìm đến ngôi nhà xưa cũ này ở Massachusetts,
học cách sống với những xoay vần đổi thay của vùng đất bốn mùa.

Crime of Hatred

They said – it was not about the color of your skin,
or the fact that you were a woman, none of those things;
your death was simply
a tragedy, an accident, a sad coincidence
caused by someone with a mental illness.


Such an insult to your truth, to what it means to have a mental illness,
to your being an Asian woman in a world where you were seen as a woman, an Asian,
a person who was not white, not male, not anything
for whom the media so readily provides an excuse.
They choose the narrative that brings them the least discomfort,
not one that shows the darkness of the world in which you can be executed
by someone who had the audacity to claim his act of murder was about lust.
The killer lusted for blood, the same red blood in his veins,
only beneath a different appearance from his.


And yet so many of them are saying, no,
that is the self-victimization mentality.
They’re saying that to you who literally were the victim of a hate crime,
whose life was taken away – not even because you were at the wrong place at the wrong time,
but because the murderer invaded your space,
as if this earth were not big enough for everyone regardless of their gender, and race,
and everything else that makes us different and makes us one.


You are dead. Many of you died. Many of you will die, if they keep breeding the lies,
convincing themselves and others that this could have happened to anyone,
that they choose to not see colors when one of the colors were red, that of your blood
spilling over their head, their conscience – does everyone not have one?, their rhetoric.
But the truth is this:
this. is. a. hate. crime.
this. is. a. murder.
and anyone who claims otherwise is an accomplice
in an act against humanity, against what we all want for our country,
our children, our future.


And now every time I walk out on the street, I would wonder
if my mask and clothes were enough to conceal me, to protect me:
my woman’s body, my Asian skin, my identity
that should matter and not matter just as much as anybody’s,
but it doesn’t:
in Atlanta, just the other day,
people who looked just like me were murdered
just because of how they looked.

Faith In The Dark

Eventually you learn
how to feel your way in the dark. Everything looks the same,
but feel different; unlike the usual days
when all looked different yet felt the same
as if time never moved, neither space
nor you in it.


In the dark you start to remember
where you came from, before your mother
heard you cry
(you sounded like a child who had strong opinions
and an abundance of tears
and something resembling the other side of the gate.)
It feels cathartic, like redemption
from an opportunity unchosen
where you make the best of it.


There is an unspoken word of grace
when you bow down on your knees, and legs,
your forehead touching the cold floor,
your heart shaking as if every beat were a prayer
that would somehow be answered, as if
your faith had been restored.


It still worries you that if you didn’t believe enough
god wouldn’t hear your voice, and how sad would that be – to carry a voice unheard,
an identity unbeknownst,
a lifetime unchanged
by a power larger than yourself
manifesting itself in so many ways
even your darkest doubts gradually turned into beliefs.

(October 21, 2018)

did you?

did you walk on this earth five hundred years ago?
did you hear the voices of the ancestors?
did you taste the sweat from long journeys across the continents?
did you write the words that would later be misinterpreted?

did you ask questions because the answers were never enough?
did you assemble your own truth among others’ lies?
did you look for the things you could never find?
did you meet those you were always meant to meet?

did you say anything you truly meant?
did you do everything you could ever do when you said you did?
did you believe enough to take a leap of faith?
did you see in your heart that which resembled a heart?

did you seek to be understood or be loved?
did you feel what it was like to have said goodbye without knowing it?
did you realize the way everything turned into something exactly the same?
did you know that you too one day would become someone different?

did you love because love was all you could ever do?
did you hate because love was all you had given away?
did you know there would always be another way?
did you understand the meaning of that moment that day?

Time Witnesses

What a time, what a time
to watch the world change
day by day, number by number,
name by name, one of which
can be yours, any moment now,
and yet the heart stops
even when it isn’t, because every life
matters, in a world where nothing seems
the same. A ‘new normal’ is deemed
to happen, either a promise
or a warning. Wherever the eyes land
there are masks, and gloves,
and sometimes the absence of such:
so much meaning behind
objects, so much on the line
every time we choose to walk outside
in search of the normalcy we used to have.

What a time, what a time
to be alive, to grieve over those who have died,
those who are dying, those who are struggling,
those who are taking care of others,
those who are being taken care of;
to grieve over ourselves
as part of a wave
that has taken over this island earth.

This is not an ode, but rather a moment of quietness
in which I think about you, and me, and us,
and where we are going from here,
how we are leaving from here,
what we are becoming from here.
And I see nothing but hope, among it all,
so much hope, because more than anything
we have shown love and strength
and watch the air cleared up and the birds come up and sing every morning
and the neighbors and friends asking one another,
“how are you doing?”, this time really mean it,
unlike any time when it was but a passing social note
having faded just as quickly as it had appeared.

What a time, what a time
to be witnesses to time, to where history happens to have us,
and to an opportunity to reveal what must be changed
for life to sustain, for our children to thrive in the world,
for our fellow human beings to safely come together
for a long, long hug.

Let Me Remember You

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Let me remember you
even long after our time has passed
and our wisdom turned into dust
along with us. Let memories
stay among themselves on the pages
that preserve your words, and mine,
in silence, while our emotions
are so fiery they would make anyone
blush. Do you remember
when I said I forgot
everything? I did, but these letters
keep my mind awake.
It won’t be long
before we too will become the trees
from which this paper is made,
be inked upon, and thus become
somebody else’s memories –
isn’t that great? That you and I
will not only be forever, but we
get to immerse ourselves
into the multitudes of others?
I am so grateful
that this time around
once again
I get to meet you.

Intimacy

Even in the coldest days across this city
he has a warmth that you can seek
even when his bones are cold.
You have a warmth that only comes out of your skin for him
You reach across the pillow
and touch his smile;
he draws you in
until it touches yours

Is this love? Many a time you’ve asked.
It’s not a question needing an answer
but more its source. Why do you wonder
when this feels so good, so much better
than anything you felt before
or anyone has ever brought your way
and put down long enough to convince you
that they are here to stay
that not every lover will eventually leave.

If this is love, then you love him,
in a way that no one ever loved you.
You begin to feel
that sense of solidness,
in which you can close your eyes,
and there he will be, in the very darkness of your soul
lighting it up.
And if you call his name the universe will respond
bringing you a warmth
you can count on
even in the coldest of days
and nights