Flat out on a lawn chair with his bones and bloodstreams
clanking like crackling on floss. Grandpa would stew alone
with anesthesia and jasmine tea after years of wrestling life
and country as boars wondering if he was in the outer dark
or the opposite when his grandchildren gawk and his kids translate.
Grandpa would leave for us white meat as he devoured xôi gà
some nights, washing down beer or dripped coffee blackened
in sugar acting as clock arms at dusk or day before we fly away
uncertain when the pens close. He mentioned pain in his gums
like knives between gnashing teeth and wanted a final smoke
before settling down where the cement hardened into a tomb
like a broken embouchure counted in bites of persimmons and calyxes.
As a child, I thought grandpa’s body dissipated like joss paper
then ended up in a time lapse of hell like a swallowed capsule,
while over oceans our parents sung yellow songs and Elvis
to us. Unpacking tongues until their gums itch knowing the songs
break into pieces of dish plates, only to return on Vu Lan.
 Mother’s Day or Vu Lan in Vietnam are influenced by the Lunar calendar. During this holiday, proper respect and worship is given to ancestors in the hope that ghosts of ancestors can rest easily.
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