Tháng Chín (September)

Tháng chín se lạnh
Những đồi cỏ vàng mượt như nhung
Nghe đâu đây mùi thơm cinnamon
Mùi rừng phong đỏ vàng rực rỡ

Tháng chín xa xưa tràn môi bầu sữa mẹ
Những táng cây phượng vĩ đã không còn đỏ rực góc sân trường
Tiếng súng nơi chiến trường nổ theo lời ru ơi hời của mẹ

Tháng chín của sự sinh
Những nụ cười in trên bọt nước biển Vũng Tàu trắng xóa,
Hay ẩn sau những trái su su nặng trĩu của bà ngoại ở Đà Lạt

Tháng chín cũng bắt đầu của sự diệt
Bao nhiêu nước mắt đã chảy đầy sông ngòi biển cả
Giọt nước mắt nào sẽ lăn lần cuối ra đại dương nghìn trùng

viết cho tháng sinh nhật 2016

September

for my birthday month

Chilly September. The doorway to a new season. I could smell the aroma of cinnamon emanating from the pastries when walking by the bakery this morning.

It was in September many yeas ago that my mouth was full of mom’s breast milk. The flamboyant was not blooming in red anymore. The shooting in the battlefield burst with the lullaby hovering over my cradle.

September, the genesis of many things in life. I remember the shining smiles carved in the white waves at Vung Tau beach. The giggling by the chayote vine of my grandma in Dalat. The warm eyes of the little girl enlivened by the candlelight lit inside the pigeon-shaped lantern during the full moon festival.

September, the onset of death and decay and deterioration. How many tears I have shed and filled up rivers and oceans. I wonder which one will be the last teardrop to roll into the deep blue ocean.

Random Thoughts on Sept 1, 2016

September has finally rolled in
amid the cool air in the Bay area.
Are you sure the leaves
will turn yellow soon?

The reunion had me reminiscing
about the many autumns past
when dreams were flowing
like cascading waterfalls

Which dreams have been merging
into the ocean and which dreams
are submerged in the stream
aspiring to rise and to live?

Let’s bring on new dreams
in black, white and yellow skin
blooming like flowers in the Spring
as if we had never dreamed before.

What’s in a Name?

– Hi chị Vân!

The girl typed on the screen. Was she talking to me? There was no Vân in this chat room. I double checked the friend list on Viber to make sure I was right. She must be talking to me then. But hey that was not my name. Here we go again…

I worked for Hongkong Bank more than 15 years ago in Saigon. I was in Trade Services and she worked as a teller in the front. We did not quite have any interaction on a daily basis, but everyone knew everyone. The Hongkong Bank office was very small back then. It was not like we had thousands of employees on a huge campus.
Recently they set up a chat group on Viber to connect all former employees from all around the world: Vietnam, United States, Canada, Australia,… I had a lot of fun reading all the chats coming thru 24 hours of the day literally and reminisced about all the good old memories, but it was not very exciting that someone did not recognize me. How could it be?

– Hi Ngân, are you talking to me? There is no Vân in this chat room🙂

I carefully crafted my words and drew a smiling face to imply it was not a big deal that she got my name wrong. As if I did not care at all.

– Oh Temy, sorry, I remember you. I don’t know why I associated you with the name Vân.

The girl responded after a few minutes…. This is the second time it happened. The first time it occurred to me, it hit me hard.

It was a week ago that a guy named Dũng joined the chat room. I have not seen him for over 15 years since the day I quit my job at Hongkong Bank, but my memory about him is very clear. He occupied the office in the corner on the second floor not very far from my cubicle. He shared the tiny office with two other guys, one was in fact a Vietnamese expatriate who had returned home in pursuit of whatever he couldn’t find in the US. Dũng, on the other hand, just finished studying in the US and went home to join the bank. It was very impressive that he had a degree from a US university, since it was super hard, if not impossible, to have a chance to study abroad back then, unless you had powerful connections.

Soon after Dũng reunited with the old Hongkong Bank gang in the virtual world, he mentioned where he and his family currently reside. I realized he doesn’t live very far from me, hence I chimed in on the endless stream of conversations on Viber, telling him we live pretty near each other and asking him if he would be interested in getting together some time.

-Yes, Temy, I actually work near where you live and we can have lunch with each other some day. By the way, how do you spell your name in Vietnamese?

I was happy half way thru his response. How do I spell my name in Vietnamese? Hmmmm….

My name is spelled Tề My. Growing up, I was always having a hard time telling people what my name was. It always went like this.
– My name is Tề My
– What is it? Trà My?
– No, it is Tề My
– Tài My? Tà My?
– No, it is Tề My. T Ề M Y

Oh gosh, why did my parents pick so strange, so not-like-any-one-else, and so hard-to-spell a name for me? I hated my name. I wished I had another name. Any name. A flower, a cloud, a plant,…any of those that a girl is usually named after. Not straight eyebrows. But the name stuck with me.

Once I immigrated to the US, people here would spell my name in tons of different ways: Tami, Temi, Tammy, Tamie,… as you can imagine. If a Vietnamese spells my name as Tề Mi or Temi, it won’t surprise me at all because the “i”and the “y” are sometimes used interchangeably in our language. But why on earth an American spells my name as Temi is way beyond my imagination.

As time went by, the name grew on me. I came to like it, love it and became proud of it. Tề My, a unique name, a one of a kind name, the one and only name. I have never met anyone in my life whose name is the same as mine. That is why it came as a shock to me that my old co-workers did not recognize me. Me, the girl with the once-in-a-blue-moon name, the girl as honest and straightforward as the meaning of her name, the day-dreaming girl who often stood by the windows of Hongkong Bank, looking out to the heavy rain in Saigon, and dreamed of a far away land where she would go for higher education, meet a prince and…. That will be another story then.

At the end of the day, what’s in a name? By any other name, I would smell as sweet.

20160316_125432 (2)

The Red Leaves

Red Leaves in the Park. Aug 2016

As if they had had enough of Summer
The leaves turned red
Amid the hot and dry desert-like weather
Depressing Summer lovers who visit the park

I don’t mean to block the arrival of Fall
Nor freeze the breathtaking sunset
Over the Summer mountain top

But I’ll record the mooing of the black cows
Grazing along the vast golden hills
Under the rainbow clouds at sunset;

The maneuver of the beautiful blue jay
Around the serene open space preserve
Filled with red woods and oak trees
And the smell of sun-burned grasses

I’ll view them over and over again
Since I cannot hold back the time
And Fall is coming
Seriously

The Silhouette 

Big River beach. Mendocino Aug 2016

Are you real or is it your shadow
Silhouetted by the Big River beach?
I called your name only to hear
My voice echoing in the air

I searched for you on Facebook
Among piles of lavish meals
Flashy faces and vacations
Fragments of news and personalities

On Instagram I dug thru
Countless pictures of self-portraits
Surreal landscapes and beautiful animals
Street artworks and fashion fixes

No traces of you anywhere…

I listened to the soothing sea breeze
And heard the harmonic rhythm of my heartbeat
I realized you’ve been there for me
Materialized, kind-hearted, and vibrant
The whole time

Where the River Flows to the Ocean

Mendocino, where the river flows to the ocean
Mendocino, where the river flows to the ocean – Aug 2016

The beginning and the end intertwine
Life goes full cycle and meets death
Day ends to start night
Yet the life force is eternal
Like the day you said
You love me
Forever….

Mendocino Aug. 2015
~~~
I re-posted this piece and added a new picture I took of the Big River beach on account of my recent trip back to Mendocino.