Poetry by Teresa Mei Chuc


The elderly Asian woman
holding a thick, wooden stick
on Market Street
in San Francisco
spoke in Cantonese,
my native language.

She screamed through tears,
“he was bullying me!”
as she pointed to the young man
on the stretcher.
I could hear the pain in her voice.

She reminded me
of my late grandmother
who was also fierce,
surviving the American war
in her homeland Viet Nam
and coming to the U.S.
as a refugee while her son,
my father, was imprisoned
in a Viet Cong re-education camp.

I looked closely at the elderly woman’s
bruised and swollen face.
Gray like the color of clouds
before the rain.
Pink and red exposed flesh
from the assault.

I saw my grandmother’s face
in her face
and my heart lost words,
her bruises reopened old wounds
of the violence of war,
of losing our homelands,
of becoming refugees,

here is another war –
racism, hate.
We are the covid-19
pandemic scapegoats
and are told we don’t belong here.

Two wars in a lifetime
is too much
but we bear it.

The same way we carry
the weight of the world
on one shoulder
like fruits in woven baskets tied on each end
of a bamboo carrying pole.

The same way we carry the weight
of Agent Orange, the weight of the dead,
the way children still carry the weight
of their feet to not step on unexploded landmines
dropped by the U.S. military on our Motherland.

The way the ocean carries our weight
on a refugee boat…home?

By Teresa Mei Chuc

Poet Teresa Mei Chuc, author of three collections of poetry, Red Thread (First edition, Fithian Press, 2012 & Second edition, Shabda Press, 2021), Keeper of the Winds (FootHills Publishing, 2014) and Invisible Light (Many Voices Press, 2018), was born in Saigon, Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S. under political asylum as a refugee of war with her mother and brother shortly after the American war in Vietnam while her father remained in a Vietcong ‘re-education’ camp for nine years. Teresa teaches literature and writing at a public high school in Los Angeles. Website: www.tue-wai.com