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Issue 3 Poetry poetry Uncategorized

Two Poems

by John C. Mannone

Rice

Thiếp xa chàng như rồng nọ xa mây
Như con chèo bẻo xa cây măng vòi

I am far away from you, just as a dragon separated from clouds
Like a cheo beo bird far from the bamboo shoot

—Anonymous

The last time I saw you
You were bent over
Ankle deep in a rice paddy
               Basket strapped to waist
Gracefully handling
The spindly leaves
Waving in the wind
               And in the distance
               Elephant grass and oxen
I suppose you were hiding
Smiles or tears
Under that blue nón lá
With ca dao words sewn into its cone
I remember the quilting
Koi-clear water
Still clasping a bit
Of Vietnamese sun
In the puddles
Of my mind
               I had to leave
               You behind
With my little sister
And equally-confused brother
               But you Mother understood
I was going to America
To get far away from the rice fields
               To live
               Without fear of hunger
I think of you often
Working in those fields
With my siblings
               But I am here alone
               Still scooping rice
In Huang Tso’s restaurant.
_________________________________________
chèo bẻo              Vietnamese bird: a bronzed drongo
nón lá                  leaf hat
ca dao                  folk poetry

A Campfire Breakfast by the Lake

He stirs the embers
with a thick stick—ironwood,
to evenly distribute heat.
Lake breeze swirls smoke.

Flames twist with air
around skewers of fish,
their oily skin crackling,
their silver, charring.

A ring of stones contains
the fire that heats them
to make flatbread
of rye & wheat.

A clutch of eggs
gathered from a guinea hen,
rests in a basket. Olive oil
sizzles in a cast iron pan.

A pitcher of fresh milk
on a makeshift table—
ready to pour into cups.

Breakfast nearly done.
He stands on a boulder
by the shore and calls out
across the waves

to his brothers
who are fishing for bass.
His voice hurries
over water, amplifies.

The tide slapping the bow
of the fishing boat muffles
the words, yet Peter knows
His voice.          

John C. Mannone has work in Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Peacock Journal, and The Baltimore Review. He won the Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He’s poetry editor for Abyss & Apex and others. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

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