When I Think of You


When I think of you,
I think of the early morning market
From the window, way before sunrise.
The old street vendor with her big barrel
Engulfing the skin-and-bone hunch back.
Her soft shivering voice: “Fresh fish, fresh shrimps”
Then off she phased into the foggy road.

When I think of you,
I think of the smile that warmed my heart,
From the crooked toothed cyclo driver
Patiently waiting on the side street
The intoxicating coffee and smoke nearby
Motorcycles and bicycles,
The honks, a nonstop monologue.
The day has started, but no customers.

Then I think of the far away farm, the green rice field
That ran across to the other side of earth.
The sweaty face of the girl, whose feet were halfway in mud,
The old water buffalo, the young farm boy
Tiredly over the hill, they walked
Soft breezes echoeing in the bamboo forests
Could not ease the heat of the day.
No lunch, no break, but there’s still work.

I remember all the things I learned about you
The twenty two hundred kilometers of sea shores
Cross along the map with the shape of an old man’s curved back
With four thousand year long story to read.
So you fought bravely in blood.
Then peacefully sang me an old folk song.
I think of all the lullabies my mother had
About the crying Heron, the Egret, the Crane
The monsoon, tin roof sluiced with rain
The bamboo bridge, the banana bush,
The silver moon sailing across the land

When I think of you, I always think
Of the name I have long loved.
Not some colonial’s Indochine,
Nor that word connected with the war I dreaded.
But the sweet old love story
Of the mountain king and the sea princess
From whom I was born the 100th child!