Apr 1, 2013


what about greece for a few months, pick olives and tend to goats, make wine, write letters, eat figs and wade in the water, sit on the white rocks in the sun

Feb 20, 2013


photos by Adriana Petit


The sun disappears behind hills,
a white light still remains.
No pink or red or orange
with tight purple streaks, 

through a white cloud.

I suddenly feel

we can never be destroyed,
but I know otherwise.
        It's only a daydream
        an overwhelming breeze
a constriction that I can't see
opening up in the heart
on a warm evening.

Joseph Ceravolo

Dec 26, 2012


remember these? not a candy fan but i fucking love these. mixed fruit or wild berry is the way to go.

curate nostalgia & eat it too.

Dec 6, 2012

Dec 4, 2012


Among the kinds of light that might be seen now 
might be 
watch-light light 
jump-spark igniter light 
rays of light 
cold light 
naphtha-lamp light 
noontide light 
almandite light 
enameling-lamp light 
a nimbus 
meteor light 
Jack-o'-lantern light 
water lights 
jack-light light 
refracted light 
altar light 
Corona-cluster light 
magic lantern light 
ice-sky light 
clear grey light 
natural light 
infra-red light 
Reichsanstalt's lamplight 
Saturn light 
sodium-vapor lamplight 
cloud light 
Coma-cluster light 
alcohol lamplight 
light of day &/or 

First three pages of original manuscript of "H U N G E R S T r I kE wh A t doeS lifemean," 1938. Jackson Mac Low

Sep 17, 2012

Sep 16, 2012

Sep 5, 2012

Sep 2, 2012

Aug 8, 2012


Sans Soleil | Chris Marker (1983)

Aug 6, 2012

Jul 31, 2012

"We carry / our spices / each time / we enter / new spaces / the feel / of newness / is ginger / between teeth" —Lakshmi Gill

There are days when my mother will call me and ask if I’ve forgotten about her since “it’s been days since I’ve heard from you” (she says). There is not a day that goes by where I don't think of her. My parents emigrated to the United States from Vietnam in the early 1980s on fishing boats packed with hundreds of people who all had the same fear for the futurelessness of their ravaged country and the unified hope of newness and freedoms unimaginable to them then. Growing up, I have cherished the stories told between my mother and father at the dining table—I would delight in their idiosyncratic childhood memories, growing up in Vietnam before the war, opening up wonderful and terrifying rooms of their past lives before I existed, so I could see, touch, and taste the fabrics of another world I would never experience, but was theirs. When my parents’ memories of what was lost would arise in the conversation, I could feel the despair and hopelessness they and their families once felt so potently as violence and injustice struck their nation in the 1970s. I was proud when my parents were proud of their accomplishments (it was the look they’d get in their eyes); I was devastated by their stories of defeat and disadvantages, but I would look at the life they’ve led and given me and I’d realize how well they had made it past those difficult times.

Now that the years have passed and I no longer live with my parents, at times I continue to recall the stories I was told of their past—the reasons for leaving their home country with great anxiety and uncertainty; the courage that filled my mother and father to get into makeshift boats and tread across what seemed like endless, dark waters; the visions and hopes they had and made real for themselves, and for me.

So now, here I am, with a soft spot for storytelling; these relics fallen into my lap. My parents’ first-hand accounts of their post-war experiences offered me a glimpse into their world, and the world of other Vietnamese refugees. These stories I grew up with have enriched my life with a world so closely connected to me, yet I am alien to it. I am an American. Not only that, I don’t look American—being a Vietnamese American means I don’t quite belong to either world entirely. I am shared between both worlds, but my role in these two worlds are neither whole nor uncomplimentary. There is something that resists clarification of this displacement, but I have discovered literature (whether accidentally or coincidentally, one can’t be sure) and gained serious interest in art and poetry. My interests have led me to study poetry much closer in the last few years, but for what reason? It is as though the hunger for understanding one’s identity remains, and then one looks to art for clarification or empathy. Everyone comes from somewhere, and I know where I come from by way of hearing about my parents’ journey.

My curiosity and fascination with Vietnamese history and culture was introduced to me by my parents—in such an organic, authentic process of storytelling—leading me to find (and write) diasporic literature. However, my knowledge of all the above is fragmentary. The archives of documents and artifacts that exist or are to be in existence intrigue me, and I hope that through writing this down and sifting through texts, I can better grasp the situation of the Vietnamese “boat people,” their struggle and triumphs, to further my engagement with Vietnamese diaspora, now expanded with a historical lens.

+ + +

“We have a memory of water. Ankle deep, back bent by the sun, verdant fields. Shallow basins, eyes sealed with tears, ornate cathedrals. Salt water shrouds, lips cracked, silent flotilla. We have a memory of water. A memory that is only sometimes our own.”[1] The significance of water in the Vietnamese culture is associated with the Vietnamese diaspora— escape by sea. The word for water, nước, is also the word for homeland, country, nation, pronounced and spelled the same way. Nước is used to refer to liquids or bodily fluids, more specifically tears. “It is the outward gloss, the water of a diamond, the complexion of skin. It is the pace of a runner, the gait of a horse. It is the move on the chessboard or a way to play your cards. Broadly, it is a step you take in order to reach some goal. It is a pass you come to, and also a way out of the difficult spot.”[2] The connotation of water relates to life and death, reflecting the reality of the Vietnamese refugee narrative—to be on a boat surrounded by the water, by the idea of one’s homeland, the journey and a way out of the difficult spot—a fish out of water. The multifarious and monosyllabic word “reverberates with the deepest and farthest recesses of the Vietnamese collective unconscious and stirs there the most potent feelings.”[3] This notion of water is not limited to or reserved by the Vietnamese alone. Water manifests in various simulative and figurative phrases—water satisfies thirst, is necessary for plants and animals, is for washing, cleansing, purifying, “applied to what satisfies spiritual needs or desires; cf. water of life.”[4]

+ + +

In April of 1975, the Hanoi government of North Vietnam took over the South and immediately the nation fell apart under the merciless policy against Southerners. It was a dangerous and destructive movement—introducing religious persecution, control of speech, and loss of means on several levels for the Southern Vietnamese. This bleak new reality led thousands of people to flee their homeland on rickety (mostly man-made) boats that sailed out onto the South China Sea. The voyages were grim and hard on the refugees who experienced severe starvation, thirst, desperation, and fear, at times encountering ship pirates, assaulters, amidst those other challenges of nature and chance. There was great uncertainty looming. For those who took the voyage, there was no knowledge or promise that they would get to land, wherever it may be, or when. And it all seemed to happen at once—Vietnam, a land of “shaded banks lined with coconut trees” and “soaring mountains in the west and white sandy beaches in the east”—the country’s loveliness converging head on with bitterness and anguish.[5] The refugees took very little to no possessions with them—but this seemed to be the only way out of the misery and desolation that ravaged the nation and freedom of the people since the Communist invasion. “We’ve got to leave this country because if we stay here, we will have nothing.”[6]

+ + +

Here I sit, reading through first-hand accounts of Vietnamese refugees, and writing this self-consciously, thinking, How fortunate am I to be here with this knowledge and distant memory? The stories I read and hear of are very personal and can be seen as individualistic, but each one of these narratives are a part of building the oral history of Vietnamese people. How these stories feel uncannily close to me, familiar and ingrained. “When you have been a refugee, abandoned all your loves and belongings, your memories become your belongings. Images of the past, snippets of old conversations, furnish the world within your mind. When you have nothing left to guard, you guard your memories. You guard them with silence.”[7] So this is what my mother and father carried with them all the way from Saigon through their journey that founded mine. Their memories become mine as well, and those of the Vietnamese people that I come across are mine, too. I am suddenly struck silent as I flip from page to page of the memories of Vietnamese refugees, molded by their experience of diaspora, the impact of loss and grief, memories guarded with silence tied to the departure and exodus. Often, Vietnamese diasporic histories are fragmented or incomplete. Reading a wide range of narratives demands a patient and inquisitive mind, which calls for attending also to the lost or undocumented narratives that are inherently a part of the tradition entirely.

The inevitably incomplete historiography of the Vietnamese people provides us with a “postmodernist celebration of fragmentation, in which identity becomes an infinite interplay of possibilities….culture becomes a multicolored, free-floating mosaic, its pieces constantly in flux, its boundaries infinitely porous….the continued hegemony of the center over the margins.”[8] It is within and without the marginal group who experiences exiles and diasporas wherein lies the contemplation of identity, which is multiple and constantly shifting around the center of cultural gravity. Diasporic identity seems to travel back and forth, oscillating between past and present, home and habitat. Imagination and immanence are at work in exploring diasporas—discovering what it is to belong to a place and then to be displaced.

In the narratives I have been reading by Vietnamese immigrants and descendants, this center is dismantled, appropriated, then to be reconstructed—“as the margins resisted and decentered the center, they also transformed themselves.”[9] Transformation came with recognition, departure, arrival, and the eventual process of acculturation of the Vietnamese in a new nation, embodying a new geography of identity. Transformation came with building bridges among overlapping fragments of identity, of placement, the yearning for authenticity and desire for the real. But when authenticity and the real become murky in the midst of war, exile, separation, and relocation, it is essential to hold onto the gritty moments experienced before. For the Vietnamese refugees of 1975 and onward, they have collectively mapped a narrative terrain of nostalgia and displacement that is necessary to their journey.

[1] Barbara Tran, Monique Truong, and Luu Truong Khoi, “A Note to the Reader” in Watermark, 224.
[2] Huynh Sanh Thong, “Live by water, die for water” in Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose, ed. Barbara Tran, Monique Truong, and Luu Truong Khoi (New York: Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 1997), vi.
[3] Ibid., vii.
[4] Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “Water, n.”
[5] Ai-Van Do, “Simple Map, Small Compass, Three Flashlights” in Voices of Vietnamese Boat People: Nineteen Narratives of Escape and Survival, ed. Mary Terrell Cargill and Jade Quang Huynh. (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 2000), 7.
[6] Lan Nguyen, “Gold Rings and Jeans” in Voices of Vietnamese Boat People: Nineteen Narratives of Escape and Survival, ed. Mary Terrell Cargill and Jade Quang Huynh. (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 2000), 37.
[7] Roya Hakakian, Journey from the Land of No (Sydney: Bantam, 2004), 14.
[8] Smadar Lavie and Ted Swedenburg, “Introduction” to Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 3.
[9] Ibid., 4.

Jun 5, 2012

Apr 26, 2012

Stranger than Paradise | Jim Jarmusch (1984)

"If there is no fog on the day you come home I will build a bonfire / So the smoke will make the cedars look the way you like them"

Matthea Harvey
In order to go to sleep, you must build a canoe. In order to go to sleep, you must put yourself in this canoe. You must launch from the shore and on this shore you must leave all objects and people behind. Sometimes one person can go in the canoe to help you along. Only one person is allowed. This person can never be a lover nor a child. As you get further from the edge, you will have to commit to cutting the string that binds you. You must resolve to let them go, or you will never be free. So remove the scissors from your dress and cut the line. Cut this line.

Apr 16, 2012


by Ted Powers

Because we are in love
I can know five or six things.
If the band plays inside the barn
and we stand outside the barn
we won’t need earplugs.
The next day the cows will moo
louder without realizing it.
Two down. You can probably
guess the final three or four:
the one about doubt,
the one about change,
the one about the void in people
and/or what the neighbors think.
another season brings another set of songs to remind me of