Images of Vietnam

Green moss and concrete.

The city’s heart pulsed neon. Torrents of motorbikes made a spectacle of humanity.

We are so tall here.

We had no tongue in common with the family on the river pier. While incense burned, they poured out bags of live fish, giving them to the water. A few had fallen short. My brother’s hands cradled them, flung them to freedom.

How curious a language; every cadence a transformation. How sudden the change in strangers’ faces when I sang the words right.

Narrow paths, cheap bicycles. The machine seemed to sense my trepidation, but my father waited.

Demonic faces leered from the walls. Be careful, the guide called, but we were already scrambling down the tunnel into Hell.

Troi oi! Oh God! 

A theme park town. A river of lanterns. A hundred thousand shades of illuminated silk. The bridge was an antidote to the tower of Babel: different tongues, different words, one feeling.

Eyes of delicate spiders glittered in the crevices between stone teeth. On the ceiling carved out by the patient rivers of millenia, microbes sparkled in constellations of fool’s gold. Like Jila mints sucked smooth, the cave pearls lay in the earth’s gullet. Between the dripping columns and terraces, the trapped spiral shells and exoskeletons were white-line sketches of themselves.

So many people. 

I clambered down the shattered eons sculpted into axeblades by the rain. My sisters warned me of impostor footholds.

Gibbon-song is an alien siren wail; their movements elastic, effortless. Their eyes were knowing, as deep brown as river mud.

… One day, it started rainin’, an’ it didn’t stop for four months…

The fishpond was a crater, once.

Two mamas gestured over the aromatic chicken. A blonde ponytail brushed the palm-thatched roof.

Prehistoric snouts cut long bow-waves across the mirrored lake. When the fireflies appeared, blinking in the reeds, a young man – risking his life for this one green sanctuary – whispered to me. People here, they kill for nothing. One day, all of this… finish. The reptiles watched us, ruby retinas inscrutable.

A space capsule. A warm head against my shoulder. Distraction in the dark, another story to pass the time.

Golden grass and sky.


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