The Oriole

You were home for lunch.
We were eating in the
kitchen nook, where we
spotted an oriole,
and four doves.
You encouraged me to
grab a photo
with the camera.
I tried, albeit halfheartedly,
to capture the perfect shot.
The bird kept flying away
at my mere motions
behind the glass.
After awhile,
I quit for a time.
You said,
it was because
I didn’t heed Berryman’s
that I always had to be sure
of the outcome,
that what I did was right,
perfect in conclusion.

Rainy Morning

It’s a lazy, rainy morning,
we sleep into the sounds
of routine against our window,
the rhythmic rain,
the cars to work, the people waking
and talking to daily patterns.
We fight the pull
of order and schedules,
the monotony of morning,
and hold onto the moment
and each other.
We rest until we are finally
restless for when we can be
together and curled
in bed again.

The Tape

Supposedly, somewhere,
there is a tape of me
when I was three
talking, and singing.
I think I sung from Snow White
which I saw in either the
re-release, or on tape,
or else, the on ice version,
I can’t say which,
but I was singing the
I’m wishing song,
the one where
Snow White sings
by the wishing well.

In the background,
you can be heard,
praising me,
saying your usual
compliments to all
the grandchildren,
“Very good, very good,”
in your Vietnamese accent,
that shaped your American speech
from English words
you learned through reading.

It’s the only record
of your voice
in existence now,
but we’ve long since lost
this tape of you.
Like you,
the tape has since become
a fond echo
from our family well
of love and memories.

My Grandma’s Labels

You used to order tons
of return address labels.
They were for all your letters
that you wrote back home,
home being anywhere really
where there was love.
You wrote
to family, and to friends,
scattered like the roots of your life,
across lands and oceans.

Those labels always had
images of kittens, mickey mouse, roses, doves,
pictures full of sweet happiness,
just as I’m sure your letters were,
just as you were to us.
And just like how you were
with everyone,
those labels were meant to guide us
to find you,
to find home.

Miami Rain

I heard it will be raining here next week.
As it has been every weekend of last month
“It never rains in Southern California,” they said
“But when it rains, it pours.”
All day, all week,
sometimes even all month,
like one February, some years ago.

I miss the short rains in Miami-
thunderstorms, our own form of fireworks,
watching it from inside the glass windows,
in the bedroom of our modest house, our first.
Then blazing sunshine,
the heat;
or nights with whiplashing rains over the roof,
followed by the moonlight filling up the room,
of our little first home.
Things were good and bright,
like the storm had never visited.

I’m learning to let go like the old rain back East.
Though it’s hard, I’m erasing the lingering pain.
I wish all the years would be like the first –
All the rides in our old beaten-up car,
Dinner dates at my work place,
I worked nights and you worked mornings.
But weekends were our pure happiness,
…at least mine.

This morning, thick mist surrounded the windows,
covered the mountain passes when I went to work.
Here is paradise, so they thought.
Despite the everlasting pouring rains,
it’s still more than 300 days of sunshine.
I still miss those damp wet short rains in the past,
I miss it, when we were poor.
I miss it, all the time we lost.


It’s the morning of our departure.
You’re smiling; relieved, I think,
at the stress of family being gone.
We’re in the driveway, and
your door has been left open.
Murphy, that big black, checkered shepherd,
comes bounding out,
bounding to get lost
if we don’t find him soon.
I forget who, I think Mom,
suggests that we use Murphy’s favorite toy to
call him back, to the family, to you.
We get the stuffed rabbit, old but faithful,
and as soon as we get it out, and start waving it about,
back comes Murphy.
Maybe, really, that’s all you needed, too,
for us to show you
a piece of home.


You were talking about
camping at your old cabin
with your sister
on the drive to
You were recounting
how you used to
make small hearths
of stone and sticks.
Small fires,
for a small boy.

When you grew up,
you devoted yourself to
your passions.
building code,
exploring imaginary worlds,
loving family.
You built the hearths
of your life
with solid dreams and goals.
Grown fires,
for a grown man.

In your heart though,
I know
you still carry those small hearths
of stone and sticks.
Small fires,
for a small boy.




“It’s foggy this morning”

for my Mom

In those early foggy mornings, I woke up
Like clockwork, you woke up with me
Fixed your hair to a bun, you sat up
The noise from the key chain hung by your bed
The “cling clang clung ,” I would hear

In those early foggy mornings, I went downstairs
Like clockwork, you walked down with me
Your slow feet thumping, step by step
In the dark, you held on to the rail
Behind you, impatiently, I waited

In those early foggy mornings, I got up
Like clockwork, you made a pot of coffee
“Stop by the store to get more milk”
Or “No more salad for dinner, you know”
A quick conversation over breakfast, you would say

In those early foggy mornings, I walked out the door
Like clockwork, you stood by the window
“Drive carefully…where’s your jacket?”
“Do not worry” I used to snap
It was cold, and I was angry
And lonely, and sad
For things I didn’t even know

In those early foggy mornings, I went to work
Like clockwork, you said goodbye
But no more mention how to dress, how to drive
“It’s foggy this morning” that’s all you said
Your shadow in the dark, I went my way

I watered your plant early this morning
The fog has condensed into water droplets
Dripping on the white flowers and the leaves
It has been in full bloom all summer
All I wish was you could see

So it’s foggy again this morning, you know
Just like that morning we took you to the sea…

The Mosaic

We were seeing Venice,
St. Mark’s Basilica to be exact.
We were admiring the mosaics,
so many tiny shattered pieces
creating into something greater than
its broken parts,
something beautiful.
It made me think of our family,
up close, we were
a mosaic of broken truths
creating a portrait of
a fractured family.
But with some time and
maybe some distance,
you could see the whole of us
for its beauty.

Beggar’s Hands

This was inspired by our family trip to Vietnam.  FYI, 20,000 Dong is about 1 US Dollar.

Five thousand Dong.
Enough for food fast,
enough to end starving
I could hold the weight of the world
in these hands,
yet they are cupped only to catch only its scraps.
I hold the weight of my world
in these hands,
yet my world is both as light as paper,
and as heavy as my need.
Five thousand Dong.