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Bilingual Sestina

Bilingual Sestina

A Poem by Melissa
"

A sestina is a poem in which the last words of every line in the first stanza are repeated in a specific order in the ensuing stanzas, following the pattern 123456 / 615243 / 364125 / 532614 / 451362 / 246531. The final three-line stanza uses the pattern

"

Inspired by “Bilingual Sestina by Julia Alvarez

 


I have things to say
that cannot be said in this English:
hot days welcoming the mua1,
and a world so far, so close, so different
from this country I don't want to forget-
This new place, the new nha2, this America.

Big Mac, French fries, cheeseburger, the new tastes of America
Lure me into saying
those tu3 I always forget,
sliding around my mouth in foreign English.
Smells, tastes, feelings, everything so different
that ban dem4, I long for the constant nhip dieu5 and familiar air of the mua.

Sometimes, at night, I cry until I can feel the mua
running down my face, so thick I can't see or hear the cars honk or lights that come to define America,
replacing the mat troi6 and noise of the nguoi7 that have become as distant and different
As the words I try to say.
I search for memories of Vietnam, a culture so beautiful it flows like silk down valleys and along the dong song8, flowing over small houses and sheltering people for the night—not this blunt, jagged, cardboard English.

Vietnam, hat mot bai hat9 across the ocean so I will not forget-
Make your rain, your mua
fall around me; make me remember the world before English-
Before America.
Vietnam, give me the suc manh10 to say the words I have to say
as though the ocean makes no difference.

I can't live in a place so different
from my home-I can't live in a world I want to forget.
I can't ignore my heart when it says,
"I need to feel the mua;
I do not want this America,
These cold and ignorant nguoi Anh11."

But over time, the English
spoken around me is no different
than the Vietnamese I can hear in America,
and even my heart
gets the same thrill from the American mua
and forgets all it has said.

I promise these Anh12 and Vietnamese worlds will not be forgotten.
Co gi khac13 between the tall toa nha14, the rain,
Or the words, in both ngon ngu15, I can say?

 

1 mua rain
2 nha home
3 tu words
4 ban dem at night
5 nhip dieu rhythm
6 mat troi sun
7 nguoi people
8 dong song river
9 hat mot bai hat sing a song
10 suc manh strength
11 nguoi Anh English (people)
12 Anh English
13 Co gi khac Is there a difference
14 toa nha buildings
15 ngon ngu language

© 2008 Melissa


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Featured Review

Melissa,
This is very well done! I can tell you that I read this without the necessary translations.. and I must say kudos! It is hard enough to write poety in English alone. Yet you incoroporate both languages without losing the flow and the beautiful imagery of the piece.

I can identify with the thoughts in this piece..
It was a pleasure to read! Great ink! :)

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Melissa,
This is very well done! I can tell you that I read this without the necessary translations.. and I must say kudos! It is hard enough to write poety in English alone. Yet you incoroporate both languages without losing the flow and the beautiful imagery of the piece.

I can identify with the thoughts in this piece..
It was a pleasure to read! Great ink! :)

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

What beautiful work! I love this. I often like to write in my second language, then translate back into English. It's an interesting exercise.
I think this is one of the best poem's I've ever read on the cafe. The sentiment and feel are very genuine and rich. I'm glad that the contest brought me by to read. And I learned a few new words. :) I love learning other languages, even if only in bits and pieces. Thank you for sharing. Job well done. Bravo!

Posted 12 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on February 13, 2008
Last Updated on February 13, 2008

Author

Melissa
Melissa

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