Viêt Nam Departed
Come summer and my grandmother is five-spice again,
as in she is the bà ngoai
whose vowels bow deep
into pork fillings and star anise,
last of us to understand the bloom
of a mother tongue whose consonants clatter dry as the river bank.
Or else she is the worshipper to displaced gods,
to that fresh-pressed promise in linoleum gleam,
under the neon lights of a western land.
The kettle whistles out the immigrant prayers
for her cháu gái, khác nhau,
in words folded crescent moon.
Peel back into yesterday, the blossoming
sound to think how language curdles so swiftly
and one hundred days roll to an end.
Fish-catcher, water-whisperer, little lotus girl far from home,
teach me how to speak.
St Cuthbert’s School