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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 mt người con gái!

Không phi cái thng!

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 Nguyn 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.

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