Job Speaks of the World Under

By | 3 February 2024
“Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”
—The Book of Job
, New Living Translation

In the beginning, there was light
strangeness in me as they, without fail,
wanted me to speak
about human rights.

It swelled at a Q&A
where a white woman grabbed the mic
and apologized because we had to
converse in English.

“It’s so harrowing none of us here
could speak Bahasa, or Thai.”
Even though NT
was Vietnamese.

After the panel ended
a man—complimentary wine
in his hand—might’ve gone to me
and started mocking his ancestors.

“Oh, how evil they were, ravaging
every corner, oh, every corner, of the world.
And murdered your people,
oh, your people!”

And then I’d feel guilty after I saw mountains
of books—unsold and mine—in the festival bookshops.
If I was being a lake that day, I’d purchase some
and sleepread my own words during the flight home.

O, Lady of the Ocean Blue, why
did I have people translate my work? Why
tf did I even write? Will I forever be seen
as a voiceless subaltern?

On my walk back to the hotel, I might
pull a hysterical cry and curse God.
In the beginning, I lost a job—now I’ve to do this
to keep my parents’ rice cooker steaming.

During these festivals, my main support system
was the room’s bathtub. I would slip my tear-
wet body into the boiling baby lake
and right away I would feel safe.

Boat-like on the foamy water, I’d miss terribly
the grandparents I never met. Ompung Boru
who died on a ferry on her way
to the mainland.

“Could never forget the sunset, as Omak
was on her last breath, how orange it was,”
Namboru Ana would say. Father said she kept
her only picture and she said she didn’t.

Alone like an arrogant God, I would just jump
on the bed lake-wet. Woke up at 7 AM in the lavish
hotel room and dragged my hunger to the McDonalds across
the street—since it didn’t come with breakfast, which would be $50.

O, my dear Baby Lake, it’s an illusion, all of it.

For NT

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