Save me, Mother, for I am burning.
We became water / Father
devoured our hearts to build kingdom
drowned the earth to suffocate all embers,
but our hearths, scraped dry by the salt, flooded with
mouths gaping, empty, gasping. Will our boats float
upon this sea of fire? Mẹ ơi, có nhớ con là ai không?
Once, my name was Mai but then
it was Mei & Marie & Mia and
Han Dynasty & Indochine & Vietnam War and
now our boats sink, heavy with unknown bodies,
dropped into the inescapable belly of firestorm –
we think this is hell but it is your womb;
we know you to be light but we believe you are ruin.
For how many lives have I wronged you, Mother?
Mẹ có biết con là ai không? Tell me I still have a heart.
Tell me I did not give up my name to become
the ocean, which only disappears in the face of flame.
Tell me I did not leave only to be consumed by the yearning.
Tell me I am still kindling and not ash.
Mother, free me from the drowning.
Mother, remember me.
Do Nguyen Mai – name written family name to given name – is a Vietnamese American poet currently residing in Los Angeles, and she is the founder and editor-in-chief of Rambutan Literary. Her debut poetry collection, Ghosts Still Walking, is available from Platypus Press.
Animated Illustration by Sitji Chou