Poetry Sunday: the hidden

When I read this poem last week, it made me think of all the refugees trying to escape the horrors of war on boats, rafts, or on their feet, crossing borders, seeking a place in alien countries; countries that are often not welcoming, too wrapped up in their own narcissistic, self-centered, self-absorbed concerns to see those in need of the simple necessities of life; to see the hidden.

When I read the lines of the second stanza -
she is the mother of five a wife
a widow it is easy to forget
her strength in its subtlety
she keeps it hidden
- I thought of all those refugee women with their subtle strength that they keep hidden, the strength which gives them the fortitude to carry on against impossible odds. Would I ever have such strength if I were in their place?

the hidden
by Truong Tran

known for her cooking the consistent
perfection of spring rolls evenly fried
her secret to brush it
with just a hint of apple juice
to add some color give some flavor

she is the mother of five a wife
a widow it is easy to forget
her strength in its subtlety
she keeps it hidden

like the smell of apple juice
that reminds me
of my family the eighteen days
we spent on a tanker

the sticky metal floors streaked
with the vomit of children crying
a pearl a day she removed
from a string milky white marbles

on an army issued blanket
a make-shift playground
that kept what was ours
i would have to be good
no crying no complaining
it was mine to keep it was mine to lose

being thirsty that i remember
drinking juice from a can tomato
apple a concoction of both
my mother traded her red jade bracelet

for a jar of water
the kind you drank if you had money to buy
if you spoke korean the kind
that was plain without the taste of salt

she said uống từ từ—drink it slowly
i was given a third of this precious water
the rest she saved  hid in a suitcase


  1. Replies
    1. Or badness - as in, the world is at times a very bad place, especially for people who have lost everything but their lives.


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