Beneath the shroud of morning, two mothers watch / their daughter die. One keeps her eyes closed, / the other, her hands clutching prayer, // a kaleidoscope pool collected at their naked feet / as a lotus ruptures upon the gasoline garden.
Yesterday, my history professor ordered me to stay after class and then apologized to me.
“We are sorry for everything that we did. Vietnam was such a beautiful place with beautiful people.”
I shifted awkwardly, unsure if this was the beginning or the end of the conversation.
Through my parents’ repeated retellings of their stories, with the same tones, rhythms, inflections, and unreconcilable non-endings, I realized that beyond being a ubiquitous source for survival, water, or nước, was also personally symbolic for my parents.
Dear Mom, I’m writing to apologize that 24 years passed before we hosted a Đám Giỗ for you. Although it took me so long to invite you home, that ceremony shifted my relationship with you, your life and your death.
diaCRITICS is a blog that showcases voices and stories from writers, artists and culture-makers of the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian diaspora on and from all shores. We publish poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, visual art, and more. Our founding editor and publisher is Viet Thanh Nguyen. diaCRITICS is a project of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN).