Nguyen

 

(Vietnamese) American

Christine Nguyen

One by one, we all stirred
his          (foreign)         name with our tongue.
We called him Ti
                            (because that’s how it was spelled) —
Ti, our cousin           (we had never known)
who just moved into town.

He never showed
when it bothered him
                            (or maybe we couldn’t hear
                                         monsoon over hurricane)
but he was not the first to be butchered
in our slaughterhouse.
                            (Má became Mom,
                                        Ba became Dad.)
If Webster could not find trái tim
between his inked ribs,
then we’d crumple the word
and throw it into the fire.
                            (We had been spoon-fed
                                        the histories of George Washington
                                        before we even knew how to swallow.)

And then, one day, he turned around.

                                                    (One day it mattered.)

One day he singled my face
from other blood and said,
                                                    My name not TEA — it’s THEE
as if I was supposed to care
                            (as if the roots around his ankles
                                         were the same roots
                                         that gripped mine).

Christine Nguyen lives in Texas with her three opinionated cats, and is working on her BFA at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her other works have appeared in Humid.

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