As the trishaw rolls to a stop,
I spy a girl standing on the footpath
in Rue Catinat, near the Continental,
twirling a hoop around her midriff,
spinning it with enough torque to hold it up—
the supple undulations of her stomach
propelling it round and round.
A dark curtain of black hair falls
across her face as the bracelets
on her wrists catch the sun. For a moment,
I see Mai in her nightgown as she runs
into our bedroom and leaps
at the mosquito net, tumbling across the bed,
all veiled and twisting, her giggles
announcing her presence like a pealing bell.
I have a sudden urge to throw a handful
of coins at this girl to buy her hoop,
even if I have to pay more than ten times
its worth so I can send it to my daughter.
But I can’t post it to Hanoi.
And what if she doesn’t remember me?
I haven’t explained my absence, why
I left in the middle of the rainy season,
how one evening I was lifting her up
to light the sticks of sandalwood incense
before our ancestor shrine and the next
day I had fled. She laughed when we saw
the sandpipers at Haiphong, wading
on the mudflats, their long bills
darting into the water like chopsticks
immersed in a steaming soup.
The sandpipers fly south to escape
the winter, before returning.
Yet two winters have now passed
since I last held my daughter.
- 96: NO THEME IXSUBMIT NOW with M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRO AUSTRALIANwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones