Vuong Quoc Vu

Two Love Dreams

You truly love someone when you dream of his death.
- Vietnamese saying


I believe my mother and her sister
when they say I have the face
of their brother, Thua, my uncle
who died when he was barely twenty.
I once had a dream of a funeral,
my mother and aunt, still young
peasant girls, shy as mice,
standing behind a casket.
I looked at the face in the casket,
and it was mine, eyebrows
like dark feathers, the small nose,
the face angular and brown
as a block of wood.
Surely, it must have been my uncle;
I could never love myself enough
to dream of my own dying.


In his dream, my brother saw grandfather
as pale as morning, casually walking
down the stairway as if he had lived
through those years of war and hunger.
His beard was white, coarse as goat hair.
He complained that he couldn't sleep,
all night, dreaming of my mother's death—
the timid farm girl who married his oldest son,
who gave him thirteen grandchildren,
enough grandsons to carry on his name—
he dreamed she died alone. And heartbroken now
he wanted to see her, to speak with her,
to gather the wind scattered years:
have the years and have you children
been kind to her? Oh, bring her flowers, will you?

My brother brought my mother
early that morning white chrysanthemums.

Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry
Issue 1 | June 2010 | pp 18-19