Vietnam III: Prudence

I would have come.
When you called. But.
I had the most beautiful pale pink rose.
Its healthy stem was clenched between my teeth. And.
Its thorns bit sharply into my tender wet flesh. So.

November 12 | Hanoi to Ha Giang

Wake up 6am, full, hungry, crying with lonely relief. Closer, closed off, I drink egg coffee with friends and casually think of home. Among fighter jets in another war museum I see eyes maybe green, maybe golden, another day with my heart in my head. Walk to the prison, to the pharmacy, feel no anxiety towering above whatever else I’d said by the water. We find a sports bar with leather benches — why does this mean so much to me? And goodbye with you feels better this time, feels like it was meant to be. Only this. Only this. Walk back in the night.

I couldn’t answer you. Still.
My lips moved at you silently.
They offered words you never heard.
They screamed inside my crazed brain. Only.
It could do nothing for you.

November 13 | Ha Giang

Wake up 6am, two friends and a few dollars in a dark hostel, large bed. Watch the town settle into the morning, luckiest of mornings. What now? Jungleman never calls so we arrange for a bike, then a car. Pho for lunch, family dinner pretending we’re a part of this — but we’re not, but we are. Laugh at the baby with the chopsticks, crash a wedding with rice wine while everyone’s coming and going and going and going to sleep.

In time the petals wilted.
They blew away. And.
They became compost in someone else’s garden.
The tough, fibrous stem withered.
I bit down hard to snap its grip on me. Then.

November 14 | Ha Giang

Wake up 6am, Hun arrives in a sedan. We drive into the mountains, dodge bikes and trucks, peer through the sun and wonder how they climbed so high, or how these plastic signs appeared. And when they’ll disappear. Looking out over these towns you would have thought it was two years ago, you would have thought I was Canadian, but I’m my own favorite American with a new backpack to prove it — I’m not like them — when I play this game I play it with poise and with purpose, no anger. Smoke and drink more and think more and avoid loud personalities and fall asleep gently. How large is this place, this heart?

My teeth fell out.
Its thorns had burrowed into my cheeks.
They had implanted themselves permanently.
They were suckling on my softest tissues. And.
Not long after they sprouted tiny shoots.

November 15 | Ha Giang

Wake up 6am, mountain air blowing over from China don’t I hear the alarm going off from inside the shower and now — have I hurt you? Had a long day but I’ve had longer, knobby knees sending us back to the car don’t you feel the anxiety again? Where are your people? Left the continent? Look around but it’s just me in these mountains, these islands, my own pillar. Peace or compliance? Stop at the same place for lunch and greet Kiki, eat cheap banh mi and stoop like I used to — not as delicate anymore? On the night bus I think of friends squatting in backyard cement piles and a certain someone of the past. I don’t sleep on the bus, it seems I never sleep at all.

They coiled their way down.
I still held the memory of your call. And.
The long stemmed beauty lodged next to it.
They cleaved unto the long roots curling down my neck.
My body held tight and listened. Hard.

— “Untitled, with Rosy Inflection,” Elena Minor

III of IV

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