THIS IS FOR MẸ: Appellation

In this excerpt of digital magazine, this is for mẹ, Danny Thien Le revels and reflects in the power of one word to heal, create home, kindle nostalgia and transcend time. That word is mẹ, the Vietnamese word for mother.

this is for mẹ is a digital magazine for Vietnamese and API identified people to discuss mothers, motherhood, motherlands, mother-tongues and family.



Do you remember

the first time you

taught me your name


Was I swaddled under

the bone white moon,

or nursed atop a heaven of

mangroves and sea foam


How long was it until

the word mẹ found form


Tucked into my mouth

like soften grain and milk,

mother’s lullaby

pressurized coda,

a choir song


How long did it take me

to shape the void into a home,

until you recognized yourself

in the polish of my voice


Was I finally a refuge

for the refugee


An echo of your identity

that cooed and cried

in a hammock of hands


Did I sound like I valued

the sound of this gem

that hummed in my mouth


Gurgling like a brook

in the wake of a monsoon


My hands, no bigger

than last night’s dream,  

outstretched digits

grasping upward at the face

that peered back at me


Did it come before or after

the tears fell,

like a cicada in the summer


Did I sound like ông nội,

a salve for your longing

of Di Linh and dried dâu tây


Your name left a hole

that the ocean couldn’t fill,

tousled by a faint drone,

the pearl that was heard


I cupped my hands

and said your name,

warmth escaping through

the cracks of apologies

that have found no shore


I repeat this call, mẹ ơi,

as it makes its way through

broken language and

a stubborn heart


Becoming a bouquet,

every time it is spoken

in your name

Danny Thien Le (Dandiggity) is a first generation Vietnamese-American writer, poet, cultural enabler, and future librarian hailing from San Jose, CA. His birth state of Oklahoma made him “different”, but the Bay Area amplified his diverse, personal voice. He represents Universal Grammar, Cukui Clothing, POW! WOW! San Jose, the San Jose Public Library, and the global APIA diaspora. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Library Information Science at San Jose State University. @dandiggity


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