Tag Archives: poems

On this mother’s mind; lies, greed and truth–Poem of Ocean Vuong

I cannot remember if this came through my subscription to Split this Rock or through my sub to Blog this Rock– two arms of the same effort; poetry of witness, peace, protest.  I would also say poetry of truth.  I’ve been thinking a lot about things I will write about bit by bit.  But some of what has been on my mind may be best expressed through poems, as well as essay or long post.  These are big topics, but I seem, these days, to always start from the perspective of a mother, raising a daughter, trying to raise her right.

I’ve been thinking about fairness–what is fair and what isn’t and what I/we do and do not face about what is fair and unfair in the world. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about greed and about how this plays out in our homes, our schools, our friendships, in the “small things” as well as the big political acts of greed. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of poets and protesters and writers in telling the truth– and about the right wing in this country.  I’ve been thinking about  the fact that some of what I think is most dangerous, most destructive and most challenging about the right wing in our country, are the ongoing, deliberate and generally successful efforts at obfuscation, at distortion, lying, hiding and mis-shaping, the truth.  So I’ve also had my eye out for the truth-tellers, those who reopen the histories about which we’ve been told lies, those who who retell the stories that were told to us wrong, those who continue to make beautiful and hopeful, the truth, even about subjects that are blindingly hard to look at square on.  I came across this.  It is just one of many poems that I consider part of the antidote to lies and misinformation.   I love, among many things, that this is the work of a very young poet. 

Poem of the Week: Ocean Vuong

Kissing in Vietnamese
My grandmother kisses
as if bombs are bursting in the backyard,
where mint and jasmine lace their perfumes

through the kitchen window,

as if somewhere, a body is falling apart

and flames are making their way back

through the intricacies of a young boy’s thigh,

as if to walk out the door, your torso

would dance from exit wounds.

When my grandmother kisses, there would be

no flashy smooching, no western music

of pursed lips, she kisses as if to breathe

you inside her, nose pressed to cheek

so that your scent is relearned

and your sweat pearls into drops of gold

inside her lungs, as if while she holds you

death also, is clutching your wrist.

My grandmother kisses as if history

never ended, as if somewhere

a body is still

falling apart.

-Ocean Vuong

Used by permission.

Ocean Vuong emigrated to the U.S. in 1990 at the age of one and is currently an undergraduate student at Brooklyn College, CUNY. His poems have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and appear or are forthcoming in the Connecticut River ReviewNorth Central ReviewPANK, and Asian American Poetry among others. He enjoys practicing Zen Meditation and lives with an 84 year old roommate in Brooklyn, NY.

Vuong appeared on the panel Children of Warriors: Inheriting War Anthology Reading during Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2010.

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