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