In this except from digital magazine, this is for mẹ, we are gifted an intimate, unflinching and intensely loving look at what exists behind and beyond “a legacy of silence”.

this is for mẹ is a digital magazine for Vietnamese and API identified people to discuss mothers, motherhood, motherlands, mother-tongues and family.

Poem II

I hate the way you bow your head

and shrink in your seat,

hoping if you’re small,

no one will notice you.


But I notice you,

the way you pause

before you drop your gaze and

tuck your palms into your lap.


Because here’s the thing—


I know that long before the army,

your family’s motto has always been

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,


Which is how you learned early

not to bring home boyfriends

your parents would not approve—

not the long-haired barista who

was always two semesters away

from a psychology degree,

or the man you would only love

in dark bars on the edge of town.


It’s why you accepted the roadmap

your father shoved into your hands

nodding yes, yes, okay—

only to trade algebra for Angelou

and swap metal seats in musty rooms

for sunny patches in open fields.


And speaking of the things

of which you don’t ever speak,

that’s the reason

your heart makes no sound

when it shatters,


in the same way your mother let

the silence of a cloudless night

close in on her as a stranger

ravaged her body

on a shanty in the middle of sea.


That’s the legacy of silence

you carry deep in your bones,

a last vestige

of a country that you never saw,

that no longer exists


but that you’ve come to know  

by the curve of your mother’s spine

and the straightness of her lips

when your father raises his voice.


It’s the same silence that pinned

your arm to your side in

every classroom


and that pointed your feet

in the right direction

on your father’s roadmap


and that now plants your palms

in your lap even as

those around you

raise fists

and voices

and each other.

This submission was submitted anonymously. We are deeply grateful to the author.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here