If Only to Witness My Parents Ca Dao in Quảng Ngãi
By Alina Nguyễn
Today The Guardian announced: “Vietnam
declares being LGBTQ+ is ‘not an illness’
in victory for gay rights,” so I might
be free where my parents grew
up with my short hair & still
be female because long hair
means: đó là một người con gái!
Không phải cái thằng!
When Luca chopped
it all off behind the Hudson House
in Altadena, they looked at me
& said, this cut is meant for you.
Later, I visited Boise, Idaho
& the weight of it continued to fall
as my mother’s side
of the family stopped:
Alina, you’re too picky.
I want to run through
the fields where they ca dao,
among the potatoes & future rice.
They see me here in America.
On a drive to a friend’s wedding,
my father says: you don’t have to.
(In 2018, I sat with him with a letter
that I translated with the help
of Google Translate©.)
I ask him: You know
I can’t marry a man, right? Of course,
I do, you told me, remember?
I want to say I remember everything.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Alina Nguyễn spent most of her childhood in laundromats. She is the proud daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, and the author of the chapbook, Before There Were More Ghosts, from Tomorrow Today. She earned her M.F.A. from the California State University-Long Beach and is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.