102°f in California ~ a poem by Au-Co Tran

Photo by Kim Hanh Do. (Creative Commons: CC0)

last night we slept in our underwear
on far ends of the bed (i can’t love you
when it’s this hot)

saigon came back to me in waves
fans blasting on max, slicing hot air
an uncle snoring somewhere in the house
mosquito bites growing islands on my skin
(they love american meat, cưng!)
an unease, consistently on the verge of

those first nights i’d lie in bed, listening
to the city so hot so dirty it clung to my pores
as california time clung to my sleep

once a rat jumped across my feet
and onto the bed. i yelped, spent the rest
of the night on a row of chairs
you’re always slightly uncomfortable
when you’re in saigon (can rats climb?)

i want a cold coke in an air conditioned cafe
trịnh công sơn ballads & covers of covers of
western pop songs you heard on repeat if you
sat long enough. cigarette smoke in the air
like clouds, from the men the boys, and mother,
who exhaled it through her nose looking so
cool and delicious i wanted to try

i have coke in the fridge but it’s not the same

this wasn’t her saigon, she’d say
but it’s mine, i’d whine, i’ve never known
yours, i’ve never known war
no, she’d answer, it’s not yours (none of this
is yours)

last night in the middle of the heat
i felt his fingers on my knee, tap tap,
a confirmation, then the cool of goneness.

perhaps this is a different saigon.

Contributor Bio

Au-Co Tran received her MFA in Creative Writing at San José State University, for which she wrote a thesis of a collection of short stories about Việt people, both abroad and in the country. She wants to write pieces she didn’t get to read growing up; stories about characters who happen to be Việt living normal life not as refugees or victims of war, but as regular people. Her poetry tends to follow the same themes. The two years she spent living in Việt Nam with her husband has resulted in an archive of material for her writing. Currently, she is a lecturer at SJSU, where she tries to pass on her love of writing to her students.


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