As a little child in Viet Nam –
People called me ‘ti’ –
Half of ‘ti ti’ –
The Vietnamese slang for ‘tiny’ –
Since my last name was TAN –
Upon learning English –
I got hint of my destiny
When I was to become man
11.04.92 – 07.23.95
Copyright by Minh Tan on listed dated of completion
and published in Perspectives, ISBN 0-9686250-0-2.
Notes to this poem…
This poem came out of a recollection of one of my many gently self-deprecating jokes that was basically the first three lines, said in more common tongue, somewhat in a trash talking tone, like “Man, I was so small as a baby and child that they called me “ti”, meaning half of “tiny” in Vietnamese”.
In my first winter in Canada, some guys taught me how to play hockey, and made me a stick since I did not have allowance and therefore money to buy one. The stick they made me had a red Titan brand shaft, in which I basically saw my informal name “Ti Tan”, and naturally developed quite a fondness for its personalization. Now, in Viet Nam, nobody really goes by their nickname and last name like many people in Canada, the US and at least Great Britain seem to like to do, so identifying my name within the word Titan branded on the stick shaft wasn’t exactly natural. However, I have always seen the world differently, being a very strong Myers-Briggs iNtuitive type, so the abstraction came easily to me.
Then I looked up the name on that stick, Titan, and, oh boy, that little kid suddenly had big dreams! And I don’t mean soft, fluffy, big dreams, cause titans aren’t soft and fluffy. I had dreams of immortality, or rather felt like I had my dreams of immortality affirmed by that omen from Destiny, with that stick having been given to be by chance. Omens are something humans do quite naturally so I’m by no means the only one who’s ever thought such ridiculous thoughts.
I had dreams of immortality when I was five and first entered school in Viet Nam, where a picture of Ho Chi Minh, the dead leader of the Viet Cong to whom we in the South had lost the Viet Nam War, hung in the classroom. I hated the guy, knowing little but enough to know he was dead and could not have loved me more than my family as was preached to me, but the concept to be remembered so much by others after dying that it was impossible to imagine he would ever be completely be forgotten, endeared itself to me that I knew I wanted to live a life with that end result. Yes, I thought this before I knew what dying meant beyond “going away and never coming back”. And I wanted this before I knew what ego meant, though I knew this was not something “given” to anyone, either. Turned out I was wrong on pretty much all of it, but to this day, I still believe it all to be true for me. I still want to leave a permanent mark on humanity, to be remembered as long as there are humans to remember, and still believe I can carve out such a life so long as I work hard at it. How is not an answerable question but rather a faith, along with my many life philosophies that will ultimately make it possible. It’s kind of like that theory that one brain cell does not consciousness make, or a particular threshold number, perhaps, but given enough brain cells together in the right circumstance, consciousness results. Substitute brain cells for events and actions in my life, with immortality for consciousness, and you should get what I’m talking about. As for being right or wrong, I would prefer to let time be the arbitrator of that one rather than either one of us trying to convince the other who might be right or the odds of who might be likely to be right, even.
Yes, only time will tell, and since we have limited time here on Earth, I’m not going to waste it arguing the point just above with anybody. I’ve got a life to live and meaningful life to fulfill.
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.