So this is the sound of my voice
if I, your mother, were to speak to you, my child.
Nhưng tại sao tiếng mẹ nghe lạ quá vậy?

You translated me.
Rendered me visible, comprehensible, communicable
outside of that time and place where no words were exchanged,
only faraway glances, tensed shoulders, and clenched fists.
Gestures imbued with meaning: disappointment, guilt, exasperation.

You translated me.
Meaning channeled into actions: stale silence and slammed doors
Yet time wore down the taut threads of resentment.
Fading away to canh rau đay và đậu hủ nhồi thịt and breakfast in bed.
An unspoken peace offering of food, but never love.

“Love” a word I taught you, but never uttered.
You heard the word from television, fairy tales, and classmates,
but learned the meaning from me. Did you learn it from me?
Yes. I remember, I gave you the words hy sinh và bổn phận. That means love.

I never existed like this before.
Why do I sound so cold?
Is this what you really think of me?
Có phải là con hiểu lầm mẹ không?
Mẹ chưa bao giờ nói cái đó.

I never existed like this before.
Do you even remember what I used to say?
In the past, in the past, in the past.
Ngày xưa, ngày xưa, ngày xưa

Hay là mẹ quên?
Bây giờ mẹ lớn tuổi rồi, hay quên lắm con.
Thôi cũng không sao đâu.
Chắc là con đúng, mẹ sai.

This is the sound of my voice
flowing through the sepia toned filters
of memory and nostalgia.

This is the sound of my voice
feelings classified into foreign words
the untranslatable shoved into sterilized concepts.

This is the sound of my voice
if you gave me agency, expression, and nuance.
if you listened really carefully to the air heavy with
that undeniable something.

Bí bo xình xịch viết như nào đây?
Tại sao xe lửa chạy nhanh quá vậy?

Hanoi 2017

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