Brisbane New Voices IV: Mother by Vuong Pham

With one sleep remaining until Brisbane New Voices IV makes its way in to the world, I am excited to give you a ‘first taste’ from Vuong Pham’s micro-collection, Refugee Prayer. Vuong’s work is deeply spiritual and celebrates the strength of the human spirit. Mother is the opening poem from his collection, and it too, sets the tone for the remainder of the work. I think you will find the honesty and sense of hope that drives this poem will resonate with you long after reading…

Last tickets can be purchased for tomorrow night’s launch here.

BNV IV Refugee Prayer

Mother

I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
that my mother dreamed of a paradise
one unbound by war and exodus.

On the living room carpet we sit
I pluck her grey hairs and ask:
‘Mother, what ever was your passion in life?’
She smiles—that eternal smile
a question suspended in mid-air.
Her neck tilts like a sunflower
too heavy to meet the sky.

Gardening is the reply I expect.
My mind’s eye turns to childhood, to shadows
stirring beneath star fruit trees
rows of cherry tomatoes growing over fences
a call to supper while sleeping
amongst lotus-dotted ponds.

‘Teaching was my passion,’ she says, ‘high school.’
I smile in agreement. And as I do
jigsaw-puzzle pieces of memory
lock together, my past made whole.
‘A literacy teacher,’ I exclaim,
she smiles, remembering with excitement
the moment I arrived home from school
with a certificate of improved literacy.

I continue to pluck her grey hairs
our conversation lingers on
as the soft daylight illuminates us.
I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
about mother’s youth, before the bloodshed in Saigon.

I picture her driving a yellow scooter
on the road to school, the freedom
of her hair, a glimmering smile; spiriting past
street markets, the soothing aromas
of Pho and lychee tea; that familiar
crescendo of rickshaws, bicycles and scooters;
landscapes of water buffalo, ploughing
the flooded paddies from cloud to cloud; each one
picturesque from her classroom window; and all of which
was the city she will no longer call home.

More grey hairs fall, the past realigns itself and
I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
that the teaching legacy passed down to me—
I knew the responsibilities of providing
for her children outweighed
university-degree teaching aspirations.
That in mind, I tell her:
‘Mother, this week I taught my students Wordsworth
saw thousands of daffodils and thought of you.’
She smiles and I’m taken back to a halcyon-time
in childhood that reminds how she stitched floral
pyjamas, tablecloths, bedsheets together
using a sewing machine for less than $5 an hour
to afford rice, pork, Asian vegetables
and help pay for my tuition
so I could learn to spell ‘persistent’ correctly—
praying that I might speak an unbroken English tongue
and never be confined
to the labours of factories.

I know now, as I did in my childhood wonder
what it must’ve been to mother, there
among the refugee boat’s thrum, the faces
of Saigon watching—eyeballs ribboned with flames
incandescent, a disorder of diaspora animate
in the missile storm.

The homeland was a mist, the cerulean
depths of sea stirred on the horizon like some agitated womb
boats wet as one long vowel, as the city crumbled
and my mother among them fled
with nothing but me, growing inside.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under events & opportunities, poetry & publishing

4 responses to “Brisbane New Voices IV: Mother by Vuong Pham

  1. Another fine poem…thanks again for the introduction to her writing.

  2. i love the lyricism of this fine work; woven with quiet dignity and undiminished spirit.

  3. Looking forward to hearing Vuong and Trudles let their words shake the bamboos tonight on the Riverbend deck. It’s going to be special.

  4. Vuong Pham

    Acknowledgements for “Mother”—“Caliban” by Judith Huang, Cha Literary Journal, Issue 16 (2012); “Heart’s dream” by Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo, Griffith Review Edition 33; and “To the State Electrical Worker” by Robert Masterson, Cha Literary Journal, Issue 15 (2011).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s