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Stack of Magazines

Where I Am From

By: Ellie Thuy

I am from a crowded queen bed,

from jasmine tea and the house of six families.

I am from a cramped hallway.

(There is a vulnerable freedom, ephemeral –

we ate mooncakes on the dust-covered rug,

knees to our chests,

grease on our fingers, red bean stains on our lips.)

I am six years old, watching my cousins fight over food

from the plastic table with only three legs.

It is half-past dead, cracks riddling its face.

At least I am not the only one here that has been

fractured through the years.

I am from the smell of smoke, of incense, and the prayers

to a grandmother I never knew.

Can she hear me? Is she real?

(If it is not in my reality,

can I even say I am from there?)

Am I from Nha Trang and Saigon?

The country and the city,

a walking contradiction.

(I do not belong anywhere,

yet everywhere, all at once.

Scattered, an omen of the future,

a child split in pieces.)

But, I am from the ghosts of my mother’s bones and

my father’s sins – the cruelty of their past embedded in our veins.

The tears of our kin,

(The blood of our family stained the concrete in the center of Saigon.)

the sea salt on my uncle’s face,

(He hopes the boat does not sink.

It nervously sways from side to side,

hoping the same.)

the fear crippling my aunts’ souls –

cramped in between the walls of a cargo ship.

Setting sail from our war-torn land,

all the way to Japan,

with unsaid goodbyes,

the heartbreak of a father waiting at home

for his daughters.

(Only to see them again,

in a foreign land.)

I am from the bullet in my grandfather’s heart, stuck,

keeping him alive, a reminder of their lives lingering

on the threshold and life and death.

I am from a dynasty doomed to perish.

The house of six families,

divided into nothing

more than faint memories,

slowly fading into obscurity.

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