Forty years since
The last American bullet
Was officially fired,
They still call it “The Vietnam War.”
Elders I know call it
“The American War.”
My singed edge of the world is
Barely a footnote in modern textbooks.
It took a law to make them teach it
In California schools.
The other day, I learned
My old family home was razed
To make way for the shiny new
“National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality,”
But no one will send me a picture.
Most of my neighbors think
I’m talking about a bug
When they ask where I’m from.
Most can’t tell a “Sabaidee”
From a sombrero.
Laotian might as well be
Latino spelled sideways.
Read about Laos
From anyone who’s not a local—
We’re a tiny, peaceful realm,
One of Earth’s last Edens.
But we’re bigger than Minnesota,
Almost the size of Utah or the UK,
Fresh from two centuries of conflicts.
My teacher says to read Dante’s Inferno
Like a comedy. I already have.
The other day, a pack of Westerville teens
Told me, “Go back to your home,
You fucking 'spic!” speeding off
In their rusty Honda civic.
If I really went back,
They’d charge me the tourist prices.
My auntie from Vientiane
Sent me an e-mail in broken English.
“Send money, honey.
I want to see you in America.”
The last time she came,
We spent all of our time in Chinatown
While she complained about
Ten thousand dishes she cooked better,
And all of the new luggage she needed to return home.
Bryan Thao Worra is the Lao Minnesotan Poet Laureate. They are the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and 2019 Joyce Fellow. They are the first Lao American to hold a fellowship in literature from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2012 they represented the nation of Laos during the London Summer Games as a cultural olympian. • Photo by the author.
Camino Santos is a freelance artist, born and raised in the Philippines. She has dabbled in several different mediums, but over the years, she’s done more and more watercolor paintings. She does a lot of work in the traditional Chinese style, but usually not of very traditional subjects. • Photo by Eri Santos.