Are You Still the Same?

for my “LL” group

Taking a stroll down memory lane
Are your voices still as sweet
Are your hairs still as lustrous
Are the waves still as soothing
Are you still the same?

Are you still the same?
The fun we had playing game
during Tết dinner party;
The shocked reaction you took when I
your sand castle at Vung Tau beach;
The day you asked me when
I would come back and
all you heard was
but a moment of silence
while the fragrance of plumeria
was overwhelming in the air

Are you still the same?
Despite an ocean and over a decade away
Despite the dreams lost or materialized
Will you remain the same for me
when I come back home?


I was inspired to write this poem after listening non-stop to this song:

Em Van Nhu Ngay Xua


Royal Tomb of Emperor Khải Định
Royal Tomb of Emperor Khải Định. Photo by Anvi Hoang

What springs to mind when I think about Huế?

Is it the old capital where multiple
generations of my great grandfathers
served the courts of many emperors
throughout the nineteenth century?

Is it the Hương river with its scented name
its soft flow and beautiful contour
a muse for countless literateurs?

How many men have had crushes
on Huế girls strolling along
Tràng Tiền bridge
appealing in their violet áo dài
the traditional dress showcasing
the charm, the sweetness,
the sensuality, the femininity
of the wearers?

Is it the spicy taste of bún bò Huế
a typical dish from Huế?
I can still feel its sweet taste on my tongue
my favorite childhood dish
which my mom used to make
on my birthdays
back home decades ago

In any case

It carries the pride
the pleasure
the sour
the spiciness

the nourishing memories
of our past
our ancestors
our cultural heritages
our royal cuisine


Tràng Tiền bridge spanning the Hương river
Tràng Tiền bridge spanning the Hương river. Photo by Anvi Hoang