At an exhibit –
Photographs were shown of Viet Nam –
The place of my native home –
A country I had barely known –
As I looked –
I reached out for my past –
All that met me –
05.19.95 – 05.26.95
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
While I was in Montreal visiting my sister, skipping my First Class Honours B.Sc. in Chemistry graduation, there was a photography exhibit of photos from Viet Nam by some Vietnamese photographer. Don’t ask me why I went to see it. I wasn’t feeling particularly Vietnamese any more by that time with all my Western interests and activities, and less the longer I’ve lived since. However, this sort of thing just wasn’t available in Halifax, where I had grown up after arriving in Canada in 1980 at the age of eight, and was living at the time, so curiosity probably just got the better of me. Or maybe I just wanted to see how much Vietnamese I had left in me by going to something that was Vietnamese and gauging how natural I felt in the situation. It’s a kind of stunt I had pulled before and still do from time to time to check my Vietnamese percentage.
Regardless, as the poem metaphorically said, I reached out for my past, but all I met was glass (the photos were framed behind glass). I saw it. It was not unfamiliar to me, but I really couldn’t relate. I was not moved in any way, positively or negatively, and it was clear as glass to me why since I had suspected so knowing myself as well as I did. There was just a barrier there.
The O-series of poems are one stanza poems composed before I got onto writing haiku and tanka, and short poetry while in action or traveling by select means like plane or ferry. These poems are 3-9 lines long with at least one rhyming couplet, and not of the short forms just mentioned. For the sake of elegance, I just called the collection One.