Seventh Month, Saigon, 1975
They share a dish of beans like small blood clots, believing they will one day wake to a tea ceremony, mâm quả, a blessing written on the wall. She rides home on the front of his bicycle as their city reddens. She threads seven needles in poor light, stitches his ring into the left cuff of her blouse. She swears that every mưa ngâu is a new ghost wringing out its hair. He barters for extra cigarettes, holds a match to her lips. In the sky, they see the husk of a silver river, the wing-shaped breath of two exiled gods. Neither know that they will each cross the sea five years apart, that when she sleeps they will meet on a bridge woven from the spines of birds.
Note: Thất Tịch is a festival celebrating love, which takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. The festival stems from the myth of the weaving goddess and the cowherd, who fell in love but were banished to opposite sides of the Milky Way. They are said to meet once a year on a bridge formed by a flock of magpies.
Mâm quả: wedding gifts wrapped in red paper or cloth.
Mưa ngâu: intermittent summer showers, said to be the tears of the weaving goddess and the cowherd.
Love Poem on the Drive to [ ]
South Vietnam, 1978
When she asks where is left to go? he only says to water. She fingers the Quan Âm statue on the dashboard, the glue-filled crack in the neck, the hands weathered down to cuffs of light. The red-tasselled charm lashes the mirror as he follows the unpatrolled road. She is pregnant again. She imagines the child the length of her shinbone, its weight as sure as a white flower gourd. He stops the car and touches her stomach. She sings the only song he taught her in his first tongue.
Note: Quan Âm is the goddess of compassion.