— Vuong Vu
“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again?
An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive.
An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph.
Like an insect trapped in amber.”
— The Devil’s Backbone, 2001
We lived in a house that was so old its wood moaned
and walls cracked and fell to the floor like bits of bone.
There were thirteen of us children in the family,
and on winter nights, we lay closely together,
not so much for the cold, but for the dark.
There was a man who died alone in the house
before we lived there. No one told us, but we felt it.
My mother’s window overlooked an old orchard,
where fog clung like rags to the few trees left standing.
One night my mother saw her sister, the one who died
in childbirth, sitting at the foot of her bed,
her skin like pressed flowers, likely to crumble
if she were touched, and she said, I have no children,
no one to remember me. And mother and father, too,
have passed, but you with your house full of children,
you will live forever in their poetry and songs.
My mother said it was a dream, how homesick
for Vietnam she often dreams of what she lost–
family, names, and places, a piece of cloth
her mother had given her when she left.
It was a shade of blue, the color of tears–
in her dreams, all things that haunt her still,
and what is a ghost but a story that refuses
to be forgotten.