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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 6, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I wrote this sonnet at Tet 2018 while visiting Vietnam for the first time since leaving the country as a young child. It was inspired by walks around the Old Quarter of Hanoi as I considered aspects of memory, lore, events, diaspora, inheritance, distance, and rupture. The poem was also born from my appreciation of venerated trees adorned with incense and other offerings for Tet as appeals to ancestors, wronged ghosts, or wandering spirits.”
—Hoa Nguyen

Ficus Carica Sonnet

Cinched belt tugged tight around the heart
5 or 6 aerial roots dangling      A strangler fig

Do homeless ancestors live inside the tree?
Child of noise    Hold the loosened ends    You

may miss the moon or fall in love with it         Embrace
ashes    I too am far removed    A thirst that wanders

thirsting     And I could never ask the name of the boy
who died     A baby boy who died but what could you do

and maybe words hang in sinew and care     Writer
of dead words or living words and life's hammer

Encase the host tree and erase it     I don't know
the folk songs on farms far from here    The dead buried

and gone    To dig the grave     Who dug the graves
Darling      The sea widens for you tonight      and deepens

Copyright © 2018 by Hoa Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Hoa Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Hoa Nguyen

Hoa Nguyen

Hoa Nguyen was born January 26, 1967, in the Mekong Delta near Saigon, Vietnam. When she was eighteen months old, she moved to the United States and was raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Nguyen earned her MFA at the New College of California in San Francisco, where she studied with Tom Clark and Lyn Hejinian, and remained active in the Bay Area poetry scene for years before moving in 1997 to Austin, Texas, where she lived for fourteen years.

by this poet

poem
Swell     you can dream more   the earth
swells      seeds pop
I glance at the prize
eyes closed in the glancing

It's not a time to run
I wear soft shoes
and it took a long time
to walk here

Insects nudge me in my dreams
like the 5 honey bees plus
the strange one
Intelligent bee glances buzzing

to say   Let
poem

Call capable
      a lemony
light & fragile

Time like a ball and elastic

so I can stop burning the pots

        wondering yes       electric stove

She is her   but I don't reme
mber                         remember
the ashes I obsess    She said

poem

Haunt lonely and find when you lose your shadow
secretive house centipede on the old window

You pronounce Erinys as “Air-n-ease”
Alecto: the angry    Magaera: the grudging

Tisiphone: the avenger (voice of revenge)
“Women guardians of the natural order

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