Giang Luong Brown

I am an orphan, a Vietnamese refugee, one of
many newcomers to your shore. I still live
in the South Land, but in another continent,
with another family. They treat me well.
I am 16. Here are my “message” poems.

         Look at my footprints
         in the snow,
         they lead in and out
         of the house.

         I went to the telephone,
         to the radio, to the garden
         past the bird-feeder, out
         to the road
         to my upstairs window
         looking for you

         Until recently I thought:
         Americans like things complicated.
         How much easier it would have been,
         I kept thinking like a child,
         to give back my mother and father
         my sister and brothers
         and take away the long trip
         new friends a new way of dressing
         the many operations
         new ideas, new thoughts

         When they first came,
         I was a child.
         By the time they left,
         I was very old.

         Mother, I hate you!
         You said we could go home
         then stopped four times
         to greet one more friend.

         Last night I
         dreamed I was home!
         But when I awoke
         I was here

         The professor from the university
         says at dinner this evening
         that, by the time they are ten,
         children of Vietnam know 1,000 ca dao.

         By the time I was ten
         I know many things
         I know so much
         my head is bursting.

         But I do not know
         any of the folk songs
         our distinguished guest is talking about.

         Americans are so funny!
         To know hunger, you talk about it.
         To experience poverty,
         you read a book.
         Love — films.
         Food — eat out.
         Even the Shrine
         is a machine
         in the living room.

         They say, “Giang Luong,
         what do you want to do
         when you get older?”

         I only shake my head
         and giggle nervously:
         hiding my face
         so they don’t look
         into my eyes