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   Escaped the nets,
escaped the ropes
   moon on water.
      Buson

_______

For more Poetry
An Electronic Chapbook by

l thi diem thy
l thi diem thy



Untitled


Nothing but the negative
of my sister buried in swathes of pink cloth
in a coffin tilted upright
for a photograph to which
I have only held this negative

So her face is strangely
electric
shining bright as a coquettish moon
in the center of that hair which,
brooding blue black,
is hard to separate from the dark of the coffin

Like I say,
her face is
electric
and her body is a bundle of
pink
cloth
I don't see hands or feet
(I am the type who looks for
the twist of fingernails
and
the curve of toes
attune to peculiarities)
but there's nothing more peculiar
than the way she remains floating
as though death itself just happened to
get in the way
of someplace she was heading for

This negative itself
a poor record of a place
she's already
been
to

Gone

What stays are
my fingerprints
washing over film


Big girl, Little girl

wearing her dress
like i wear her name


don't you know
sweat makes it mine
it means i'm here and living
when it was yours you drenched it in
ocean
water
soaked it wet with your death
ma had to keep it in the silky compartment of her suitcase
folded small and tight like a secret
and like a secret, it never dried
. . .
if i hadn't dragged this dress out of the attic
it would have spilled out
and me,
the biggest girl now that you're gone
i would have had to swish you round the floor
until everything you spilled was soaked dry
by this dress
. . .
isn't it better
i dry it on my body
each drop of sweat
pushing back the waves
so that when i'm the age you left
dying
i will have pushed the entire ocean out
and gone leaping across it
both legs kicking in the air
the way we used to leap over jump ropes
running to meet on the other side

it didn't even touch me, we'd say


Untitled


at the edge of his bed
he saw the sea
every morning the sound of birds flying
above the water
woke him

and we wonder why it is
people leaving home forever lug pots and pans
set out
in a long line
on foot
carrying
dishes
house hold
supplies
the smallest trinket to
unlock
what memories

on the radio
a man in sarajevo says
i walk my dog twice a day
regardless of what
sniper fire
what major
offensive
defensive
what terrible
danger
to civilian
life
the radio warns me of
what
everyday

we become poets all
consort with madness
by degrees
see fire in
mid-air
and continue as though nothing
nothing
were in our way

after we lose
everything
ever resourceful
we wake to the sight of the sea
its smell and sound
just there
on the other side
of the cardboard pushed
against the foot
of the bed
all the birds swooping overhead
their flight a
secret script
we spend
the rest
of our days

deciphering


Untitled


ma said
one day lady six hung her clothes out
and the wind blew her away but
her clothes dried

tuan

i rarely write your name
almost never speak it
and when i dream you
closer to me
i call you
brother

. . .

in the afternoon my brother tuan
drowned
dragged down
turned 'round
into water
buried there

your body surfaced
in the evening
enlarged
big with your absence

everyday your body
stretched
bigger and bigger
eyebrows arching along the horizon
bare feet plunged deep into the sea
elemental
you became two long arms
fingers open
hands outstretched
catching nothing
impossible to catch

the explosion
i waited for
my brother falling back to me
a wounded bird from the sky
never came

you slipped away
slowly
without ceremony

insistent
i searched corners
scanned the water's surface

i began to miss
without words
a floating dash
in the ocean

. . .

all the time
everywhere
seeking you

. . .

there must be
a trace of blood
left somewhere
on me
your blood
from
nose bleeds
fights along the beach
scratches from the splintered floor
of
fishing boats we ran and hid in
somewhere
there must be
a trace of you
in me
packed tight
like gunpowder
in this traveling shell of
me

. . .

ma knew

sitting on the train ride home
a woman
known to be mad
said
keep your children
away from water
then
dropped an egg

blood cracked

across the dirty floor
and cut a line at ma's feet
a red gash which she stepped over
and walked home
to you
laid out big in grandpa's small house
the air
thick
in every room
without you

the mosquitoes busied themselves with
talk
i laughed at your body lying so still
between the two beds
i laughed myself to sleep
behind the mosquito net
daring you not to twitch
at this slow blood
letting

. . .

ma says
it's bad luck to keep pictures of a dead person
she cuts out the dead person's head
their face, hair
sometimes even their neck
disappears
in one flick of her wrist
all that's left
are open spaces
living people
standing in space
with a dead person's arm
still
holding them
still
wrapped around them
but no face to go with the touch
i look through the shape she's cut
and see my own toes
curled
gripping the floor
holding onto this world
my head pressed against
the suggestion of
yours

. . .

when i return to vietnam
i will bury you
if unable
i will float for ages
speaking your name
tuan
softly
like butterfly dust
tuan
like a bullet
tuan
like a boy running
laughing
in a film
with no sound
tuan
like lady six's empty clothes
whispering on the line
tuan
ma says it's time to go home

tuan
tuan
tuan




to my sister l thi diem trinh
shrapnel shards on blue water



everyday i beat a path to run to you
beaten into the melting snow/the telephone polls
which separate us like so many signals of slipping time
and signposts marked in another language
my path winds and unwinds, hurls itself toward you
until it unfurls before you
all my stories at your feet
rocking against each other like marbles
down a dirt incline
listen

ma took the train every morning
sunrise
from phan thiet to saigon
she arrived
carrying food to sell at the markets
past sunset
late every evening she carried her empty baskets
home
on the train which runs in the opposite direction
away from the capital
toward the still waters of the south china sea

once ba bought an inflatable raft
yellow and black
he pushed it out onto a restricted part of water
in southern california
after midnight
to catch fish in the dark
it crashed against the rocks
he dragged it back to the van
small and wet
he drove us home
our backs turned in shame
from the pacific ocean

our lives have been marked by the tide
everyday it surges forward
hits the rocks
strokes the sand
turns back into itself again
a fisted hand

know this about us
we have lived our lives
on the edge of oceans
in anticipation of
sailing into the sunrise

i tell you all this
to tear apart the silence
of our days and nights here

i tell you all this
to fill the void of absence
in our history here

we are fragmented shards
blown here by a war no one wants to remember
in a foreign land
with an achingly familiar wound
our survival is dependent upon
never forgetting that vietnam is not
a word
a world
a love
a family
a fear
to bury

let people know
VIETNAM IS NOT A WAR

let people know
VIETNAM IS NOT A WAR

let people know
VIETNAM IS NOT A WAR
but a piece
of
us,
sister
and
we are
so much
more


Shelling Shrimp


heaven
and
earth
and
every
thing
in
between

oh

she says
shelling shrimp

she says this
removing the thinnest purple of their veins
later
rinsing her hands under the faucet
my mother calls everyone to the table

eat
she says
pushing her hair back with
a wet hand
eat

and we do


in praise of my ba, #1 vietnamese buddhist gangster


when i walk into a room
i am wanting to hold my head
like you do
pull everything into that cool perception
wrap my mind around the twitching details of
a window painted shut
a woman's crooked hem
line
a drink left sweating on the table
anticipating hands and lips
thirsting for my touch
then
shocking everyone
break into a high, sad tune
and
sing about the sea
for no apparent reason
than that
i'm drunk
and
love it