Friday, August 17, 2012

Poem of the Week: Cathy Linh Che

Cathy Linh Che  
I see my mother at thirteen
in a village so small,
it's never given a name.

Monsoon season drying up--
steam lifting in full-bodied waves.
She chops corn for the hogs,

her hair dipping to the small of her back
as if dipped in black
and polished to a shine.

She wears a side-part
that splits her hair
into two uneven planes.

They come to watch her,
Americans, Marines, just boys,
eighteen or nineteen.

With scissor-fingers,
they snip the air,
repeat cut,

point at their helmets
and then at her hair.
All they want is a small lock.

What does she say
to her mother
to make her so afraid?

Days later
she will be sent away
to the city for safekeeping.

She will return home
only once to be given away
to my father.

Her hair
was dark, washed,
and uncut.
-Cathy Linh Che  

Used by permission.

Cathy Linh Che is a Vietnamese American poet from Los Angeles, CA. Her first book of poems, winner the 2012 Kundiman Poetry Prize, is forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2014. She has received fellowships from Poets & Writers, The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, Hedgebrook, and Poets House. She is also co-editing an anthology of poetry and prose from the children of the Vietnam War called Inheriting the War.

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