double edge soliloquy ~ a poem by Kaitlan Bui

030/365” by Bronwyn73 (Creative Commons: BY-ND 2.0)

Listen to Kaitlan Bui read her poem:

their stories are not mine to tell
but                                  ____english majors write don’t they
____                                _____did your parents really let you major
_____then no one tells them
___                                    ____ in english
so we just flip through photo albums
reading The End before the beginning


“before we came to America”
feels like a hollywood movie
pick it apart like the oranges we buy
from Đà Lạt                      ____no, not vietnam, you immigrant,
_____                                      ____i mean the american
____                                      ____wait what are you anyway
Westminster, California, Asian Town, America: American,
____                                      ____land of the free, home of the
though to be honest, sometimes i don’t feel that   brave


heartbreak and jail cells
the jack and rose to my American dream
                                  ________that’s right, speak in metaphors i can understand
bony bodies, a pinch of salt
hide the jewelry in the baby’s diaper
hope the soldier doesn’t check
it’s like Nazi Germany, see
                                  ________no, it’s not
no, it’s not
we should never have gotten involved in that war
                                  ________we the people of the united states
that’s what i argued in my history class
                                  ________in order to form a more perfect union
i was assigned to the Nixon table to
                                  ________establish justice
challenge the world that
my family fought for
                                  ________the blessings of liberty, our posterity

who am i to do that, tell me
who are you to ask that of me


they used to recount stories but
just when i became old enough
they stopped i don’t know why
and now i ask i ask i
feel i am prying into a past that is not mine
what happens next, my little hollywood movie
                                  ________exposition, climax, resolution
i hate that i love to hear
                                  _______the story of survival, a New York Times
                                ________Bestselling Novel
about their sufferings
as if they were my own stories


                                        ____ __but then



if no one tells them
we will just flip through photo albums
reading The End before the beginning, reading
they live happily ever after                                                                 _______________
over and over again, reading
The End                                                         _______________
without remembering why we even started.

Contributor’s Bio

Kaitlan Bui is studying English and East Asian Studies at Brown University. She writes for two university publications, Cornerstone and Post- Magazine, and she hopes to continue writing for a very long time. Kaitlan is currently working on a book based on the life of her great aunt, who was born in Vietnam in the 1930s.


  1. I love this poem. I love how at the beginning of the poem you wrote “their stories are not mine to tell” without saying who “they” are. I interpreted “they” as being our ancestors who escaped from Vietnam, is this accurate? My parents also escaped from Vietnam and I have definitely felt “too American” but when relearning my family’s history, I have also thought about how their stories aren’t mine to tell, especially as a person born in the States many, many, years after the war ended. Also, I will never fully understand the trauma of fleeing a war and losing a country, and I feel so, so, incredibly grateful that my parents were able to shelter me from their trauma. But, I can also connect to when you said “i hate that i love to hear / about their sufferings / as if they were my own stories”, for I have felt so guilty for thinking similar things to this. I really appreciate this whole poem and I could really relate to it. I could connect this poem to the guilt and the shame I feel, the way I’m losing my (family’s) history and heritage, how I can’t ever forget that my family “became American”, and conversely the fact of how Americanized I’ve become.
    Thank you so much for writing this poem.

  2. Wow, Kaitlan, this was wonderful. I especially connect with the internal conflict experienced when considering the POV of anti-Vietnam War folx and the reality that many of our families’ opportunities to immigrate to the U.S. were due to the war AND the paradox of feeling like we don’t own our parents’ stories of suffering (because we don’t), but knowing they will be forgotten if we don’t tell them. The interjections of a second conversation throughout this poem is powerfully done. Good luck with everything and thank you from Virginia!


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