In A Coffee Shop

I drank a cup of coffee

to outgrow my madness and sadness;

Never know whence they come

nor when they’ll leave.

You ask me, What’s wrong

with a little sadness?

And I say, Honey, if the human condition

means the sadness will never leave or let me be,

I refuse to be a human

or half a human.

I heard the trees’ conversation: Love is in the air.

It’s hard to believe in them though, when you see they can’t even keep

their leaves.

I look out the window of the coffee shop.

It seems the people all have their place to be,

A place to call home.

What do you consider a home? You say,

and I wanted to make a remarkable answer

to sweep you off your feet.

But your nimble fingers on the straw

and your red lipstick print fading out on it

keeps me from thinking seriously about any matter at all.

I don’t know, I say, What is a home to you anyway?

The bustling street outside keeps you occupied

and my question is thrown away in an ocean

of noise. Of life. Of you and me, being nowhere near each other

than the start of this conversation.

Will you still be here, I say, when your lipstick completely fades out?

What nonsense, you say, Of course I will be here:

After all, I just need to retouch my lipstick.

And I feel like crying then, No, it’s not like that.

But amidst the slow drizzling outside the coffee shop windows,

I find myself to always be a constant nonsense.

Never mind that, I smile, wiping off your lipstick, Put it on again,

and let’s stay for another minute.

Because you will never understand

the loneliness of being human, and it will be fine

to stay another minute

while your lips are still red.

Fare thee well

Fare thee well

It’s been a long battle, and

I thought we could be more than comrades wearing the same scars and

the same little memorandum on our forehead

saying we have lost.

Fare thee well

It’s been a long war.

A meaningless, gruesome war

where you grow on your comrades’ corpses

and there’s nothing else you can do

but to wonder when it will be your turn to fall down.

Really, fare thee well.

Go on home. The war is over.

And I heard that we have always been on the losing side.

But what does it matter?

You leave without a turn of the shoulders and in the torrent of rain,

I wonder if you cry.

I don’t know what to say, except that I hope you find it now:

your happiness and your wishes;

your dreams and your hopes;

because who else are out there in the darken field

but us two?

Fare thee well, fare thee well.

It’s been a long battle, and now

let’s go on home.

Since You’ve Been Gone

To M. and the memories we shared.

Since you’ve been gone,

I don’t even know if I’m outside more

or if I’m just staying inside and imagine that I’m still on the outside.

I visited the café at the corner – they’ve just opened;

the menus are all new and the chairs are made of old shaven wood

but all I can think about

is how you would enjoy the wooden decor and the hand-painted walls

and how we would talk on and on about how coconut milk is not

real milk.

Since you’ve been gone,

I don’t know if checking my emails each 5 seconds had, naturally,

grown to be my happiness;

or if I had simply let it become a part of my happiness, grudgingly.

I remember your habit of putting smileys at the end of each sentence,

how you always say I should treat myself better,

how you never care for an honorific at the beginning of the letter,

or how you just end the emails with a simple period

like the story of us.

Since you’ve been gone,

I adopted another cat.

No one in my house like him.

He suffered abuse and now he doesn’t know how to act around human:

Just like me.

I wonder if kindness will fix him up

because it surely didn’t fix me.

I don’t know if I should wait and see the final act of this theatrical story

or if I should just stand up and walk out.

Since you’ve been gone,

there is a lot of things I learn

but I couldn’t learn how to trust me,

or anyone else ever again.

A Rose for My Mother, Part IV

I wonder if you cry in the shower,

when you are left alone with your thought and

there was no one around you to put on a show for:

A show of strength,

of bravery,

of someone who is fearless of death

and fearless of victory.

I wonder if you cry in the kitchen,

when you are alone, preparing meals,

making thankless breakfasts, lunches, dinners,

and countless other thankless meals

that everyone around you takes for granted.

You put in the seasonings as you put out

the candles of your happiness.

You often talk about your dreams of being

a cai luong actress,

a chief,

a singer,

and any other roles in life other than

a mother of two sickly children,

a wife of an abusive and lazy husband,

a sister-in-law of an in-law family that consist of nothing but

gamblers and addicts.

I wonder if you cry in your sleep,

when your dreams take over and you see yourself standing on the stage,

finally being the actress that you are so dearly crave for,

and again, there will be no one around

to break the wall of the fragility of dream

and reality.

But the morning always come,

and Mother, you will always be burden with me.

I wake up from my seizure fit and see,

Indeed, it’s true,

you have always been crying this whole time and

I have never been awaken enough to see your tears

burning down time,

crashing through dreams,

tearing down walls of strength and the fragility of being human,

to save me from being me.

Indeed, there is no one here and you don’t have to put on a show.

And even if there is a crowd here, why do you even need to put on a show?

Who will see it? And what will they do?

But as I lay there in the madding crowd, Mother, there is one thing I believe,

If there is only one true God in this World,

My one true God is You.

A Rose for My Mother, Part III

I don’t know what to say to you, Mother,

to amend your sadness and sorrow.

Apologies and gratitude, Mother,

seems so useless and meaningless now.

The other day you told me the story about my sister –

who had struggled to survive Autism on her own and

failing at that, is now just passing through her life in a breeze

of nothingness and shallow graves.

You said when she was still a young infant child,

she never slept; so you had to hold her up in your arm and

sitting up all night, worrying that

maybe the ghost of the war will take your child away,

or the ghost of the dawn will take you away.

You said it was a miracle that you hadn’t gone insane then and I thought to myself,

Mother, after all these years, it is a miracle

that you hadn’t, even once, fallen down the spiral of depression and

the curse of mental illness.

I collapse on the floor, tears falling down one side of my face,

and the first thing I see

is always you, there with me.

Wake up, honey, wake up, honey.

I muster the strength.

I gather the courage.

I unbutton the bravery and

I bring down the savage.

But Mother, dearest Mother,

the apologies are getting boring and

the gratitude can’t even getting nearer to what you had done –

what you had sacrifice to keep your two children alive – and now

at the age of forty-five,

you don’t need no apologies nor gratitude.

You only need to be free.

And Mother, you don’t know how much I yearn to have the power to grant you that wish.

Letter to M., #4

Dearest M.,

Do forgive me for putting these words into verses

Which will just complicate things and

None of us will want to see; but M.

Is there anything on this Earth that is ever

Complicated?

Dearest M.,

I had a dream.

I don’t even know if it was about the me and you

Or someone else – someone more unhappy and

More painful, filled with undeserved sufferings, but

The man was confessing his love and

The woman says, That’s good, but I want to hear it again 100 years from now.

But darling, none of us will be alive

100 years from now.

He smiled at her, his loving anew with longing and solitude,

But there’s one thing you could do:

Just die before me.

You make that sound so simple, the woman giggles innocently.

Her beauty was in between and everywhere.

The man tucked her strand of hair gently behind her ear, and with sadness in his weary eyes, he said:

Darling, nothing in this world is ever that complicated.

And the dream ended.

I don’t remember the first half of it, but I presume

Like all things had happened, that it must have been a happier scene:

Where the lovers were not so old and

Desperate and hopeless.

Dearest M.,

If it’s not visible in the retelling of my dream

It must be visible here:

I just don’t want 100 years from now,

I had to mourn the death of my love for you

In front of a grave that cannot speak and

A soul I cannot see.

Whatever I ever said and

Whatever I wanted it to be between us

Will disappear.

Because M., none of us will be here 100 years from now,

And nothing in this Earth will be that complicated.

#pretend

You say when you are walking out the door

that you will be back home when the tide hit the shore and honey,

I don’t know if I should believe in you or

if I should believe in the Schrodinger’s cat:

fearing the tomorrow that

you may or may not come home to where I am.

You say you are lonely and to be honest,

I should take that as a hint to leave because

no sane person would see the abyss and think to themselves,

I want to jump in.

But darling, I am the kind of person who

always dream of the me and you.

The kind of person who know that whether you come back or not:

it doesn’t matter.

Because my hobby is to hold on to hopes

that are far above my reach

and beyond my grave.

You say when you walk out the front door

that you will be back soon and furthermore,

we will get married.

But darling, seeing the suitcase in your hand,

and ticket of the plane you are taking,

I know better that to believe in

the abyss,

the hopes,

and the empty promises that you keep giving out freely to any girls you meet.


Want to see more? Great news! All of my well-received poems are now published under the title “A Rose for My Mother.” You can find the Kindle version here:

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Freeze the Time

To my unknown lover.

I want to freeze the time, I say,

one evening in May as you walk out the front door.

You put your coat on, one shoe on your right foot and

one shoe is falling off.

How, you fumble with the broken clasp, frustrated and

angry and

I don’t know at who or what thing

those feelings are aim towards.

I want to freeze the time, I repeat, you know,

like putting it in the freezer and who knows,

Ten years from now, twenty years from now,

a hundred years from now –

whenever I need it, I can just open up the freezer and

there it is – the time: the you and me, one evening in May,

you are walking out and I stay in our apartment,

young and filled with nothing but faint hopes and useless disappointments.

You won’t be alive one hundred years from now, you laugh,

as if you think I was joking.

Of course, to you, I am alway joking.

Some mischief to relieve you of the tiring day and

the breathing life.

Say, when did you last take a breath?

Not a breath where you need to do it to survive,

but a breath where you truly see why you need to breathe.

Then do you know why you need to breathe? you ask me, finally putting on

the remaining shoe and opening the door.

Yes.

And what is your reason?

I look at you,

your broad back,

your worn coat, tattered at the shoulders,

you black suitcase,

and the sunset shining its remaining light over

your disappearing face.

I want to freeze the time, I say, as you finally walk out,

and close the door.

Eyes for A Lover

Đời em đã khép đi vội vàng
Tình ta cùng lấp lối thiên đàng
Như cánh chim khuất ngàn, như cánh chim khuất ngàn

Mắt Lệ Cho Người Tình, Từ Công Phụng

On the sleepless nights and the gramophone of old age and

pains and

tears and

sufferings

keeps on pouring out these soft, sorrowful tunes into my ears,

I cry for your blue eyes.

Oh my darling, oh my darling, do you still remember,

the summer of the older days

when I caught the pair of blue eyes from your silky face

as you smiled at me like soft lace of love

spreading over a river of hate.

I say, Maybe we should be moving on.

You say, Wait, we still have time.

And that is enough, my darling, that is enough

for me to hold on,

to live,

to breathe,

to continue suffer from whatever they diagnose me with.

As I spend more days in the hospital,

the blue in your eyes grows a deeper shade of sadness and

the memory of us grows a fainter shade of love.

Eyes for my lover, I sing, I have eyes for my lover,

whose love I did not choose but rather,

was bestowed on me in raindrops of kisses and gentle caresses on skin;

whose life I borrow as a beggar on the street and as a beggar,

I don’t get to choose the life I get to pay back, somehow, some days.

What day is it, I lift a strand of hair from her brow

and tuck it behind her ear –

the hair that reflect back all the light of the sun

and the moon

and the star

and hopes.

Hush, she whispers, you don’t need to know what day it is,

she gently covers my eyes with her bony fingers.

Her nails painted pink, a shade that blooms little flowers on the tips.

Yes, I say, I don’t need to know.

She smiles at me, her gentleness falls in between

and everywhere.

Your eyes are so sad, I sing,

and we both are so sad.

I know, honey, I know.

And the next morning, she gets up,

she gets married.