Marin Poetry Center

Oral History Poem: beyond what I could've done

By Ni N.F.

(my mother at around my age)

In chaos, all seemed to be lost.
I lived somewhere dark and dusty.
It was small, but enough.

Broken buildings, dusty air,
no food, not enough.

Enough for me,
for my two older brothers
and for the newborn.

What about Ba?
I thought
What about Me? .

Mom went out every day.
She worked really hard
doing all kinds of jobs.

Dad went to the farms.
He picked coffee beans from bushes.

On days without clouds, I see stars.
Days with clouds, I could only see the moon.
Our natural light-bulb.

Potatoes this, potatoes that.
Every day was the same.

I cooked,
serving food for my older and younger brothers. I stayed home.

I cleaned and cooked.
As a girl, I stayed home.
Limits with no free time.

I was a flower.
I can’t move.
I can’t run.
I served nutrients collected by the sun. I supported those who could run.
Those who could move.

“Ngày mai,” mom said.

I heard that so many times.
A word to lighten today.
But darken tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will always wait.

Ba: Dad 
Me: Mom
ngày mai: tomorrow

First Place: Ni N.F.
Lowell High School

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