Child mistaken for mother turned
mother mistaken for corpse,

the ashes of a collapsed Saigon
like a wreath atop ceramic skull shattered, 

phoenix crowned heir to the dying flame,
burn again to keep the sun shining,

permanent poison parasitic passed down
until the earth no longer bears bodies,

fields flooded deep with the red
simmering in my mother's stomach, then womb,

searing burning hamlet into my blurred
vision of fleet bombing acres of forest fallen

palace rubble tumbling heads in the street
lanterns extinguished stars from the night sky

body count the years added onto my spine
the incense ash between my bones - 

I am as old as the first time my ancestors' bodies
fell dead into the arms of the red river,

I am as old as the first time a body fell dead. 

Do Nguyen Mai is a Vietnamese-American poet and student currently residing in the Los Angeles Area. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Rambutan Literary and a social media manager at The Fem and Half Mystic. Her debut poetry collection, Ghosts Still Walking, will be/is available from Platypus Press.

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