Tag Archives: Vietnam

Anyone’s Paradise

23 Aug

I recently travelled back home to my native California to spend some much needed time with friends and family and to soak up some sunshine. It was awesome.

As a writer (and a fan of Steinbeck who was always writing about the search for identity), I was looking – and always have been – for the ultimate question: who am I?

As I travel and experience more and more of the planet and spend more time away from my first home, the answer becomes more complex. As I turn back to the Bible and to Jesus who had no home at all, the answer becomes simple… But that doesn’t mean it is an easy one to accept.

Anyone’s Paradise

So the way it goes.

I have dusted my feet with the salted mud of Jordan’s shores
And the golden sands of California
And looked on the dying sun from Ha Long Bay
Between the limestone mirages.

My voice deceives me. I fit neither here nor there
For as fast as sound travels, the air is filled with ideas
About me. How untrue to me they are, there they are:
Floating around me in a cloud of foreign dust.

I don’t blend into anyone’s paradise.

My hair was scissored by a British hand
My white teeth aligned by an American
My skirt hand sewn in Vietnam
My neck adorned by Bedouin artisans
My shoulders wrapped in a Mexican blanket and
My belly full of chapattis dipped in the most fragrant lentils.

Where do I belong? My patchwork self
Embroidered and inlaid with the world’s kindness and smiles.
And so I go.

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Titans

26 Jul

In my travels I have seen some incredible displays of war of barely just the previous generation. On one level they are lurid reminders of the sadness and tragedy (on all sides). When I asked around in these places (Vietnam, Lebanon, Dublin) why these pock marks on an otherwise pretty landscape have not been torn down or made into money-generating museums the people shared with me another side: they are reminders for peace. And my ah-ha moment came slowly, humbly.

I long for the day when I will visit Afghanistan and see the smiling faces of the people, sharing life around a table of mint tea and dolma.

The Holiday Inn, Beirut: Shot up after six weeks of being opening in 1975, adjacent to a modern high rise and now part of the background. Check out the holes along the right side.

The Gerneral Post Office, Dublin: the pillars bear the bullet marks from the Easter Rising, 1916

This poem compares these monsterous and beautiful monuments to titans: goddesses who were once beautiful but now are stone and ash, reminders of the battle.

Titans

“Over the past few years, the road to confrontation has shown its consequences: loss of innocent lives, destruction and fear. Most costly, however, was the loss of hope.” – King Abdullah II

She rose into the clouds
Towering over the city
Grey and scaled, each story
A rib of the underbelly.

Once welcoming onlookers
The handcrafted guarded goddess
Lulled the seascape with newness –
But that was some time ago.

She was silent: watching,
Waiting. Skin cracked, crumbling
Into pieces, her frame
Bearing wounds and ravaged

From whatever war it was.
There were no bodies left
Now, no blood, no stains but
Those great cenotaph scars.

This mother beast:
A Gorgon, turned to stone
And standing; a monument
Terrifying and alluring.

There are so many:
Beirut, Da Nang, Dublin.
Some are still, quiet;
Some alive and telling.

They protest the erosion
Of fated, forgetful minds
For whatever war it is.
For whoever lays down

Their lives and we pray:
Help us to look and see,
To hear and echo peace
Though we lie in pieces.

 

Good Morning Vietnam

28 Feb

How many sunrises have you groggily left the warmth and comfort of your bed to watch?

I almost missed the most gorgeous sunrise I have ever, ever seen in when we were in Northern Vietnam this Christmas season. We were hiking in Sapa overlooking the Fansipan Mountain (largest mountain in Vietnam) and it was cold – really cold. I was dragged – against my will – to see how glorious the simple ceremonies of the day can be. I hope you watch one soon.

I’ve included a picture but you know it never really captures the magnitude of the sun. I hope my poem fills in at least some small fraction of the thousands of word this picture offers.

Good Morning Vietnam

Good morning Vietnam will never be the same again. Today –

The sun’s gaze beacons light across the valley onto the pale blanket

Of cotton clouds below that under its parental stare awake

Slowly. Like I did but a moment ago, they lazily reach one limb

And another languidly up the valley floor climbing from their bed

Of simply, untouched stillness into the welcome dawn of hello.

 

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