Ficus Carica Sonnet

Cinched belt tugged tight around the heart
5 or 6 aerial roots dangling      A strangler fig

Do homeless ancestors live inside the tree?
Child of noise    Hold the loosened ends    You

may miss the moon or fall in love with it         Embrace
ashes    I too am far removed    A thirst that wanders

thirsting     And I could never ask the name of the boy
who died     A baby boy who died but what could you do

and maybe words hang in sinew and care     Writer
of dead words or living words and life's hammer

Encase the host tree and erase it     I don't know
the folk songs on farms far from here    The dead buried

and gone    To dig the grave     Who dug the graves
Darling      The sea widens for you tonight      and deepens

Copyright © 2018 by Hoa Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this sonnet at Tet 2018 while visiting Vietnam for the first time since leaving the country as a young child. It was inspired by walks around the Old Quarter of Hanoi as I considered aspects of memory, lore, events, diaspora, inheritance, distance, and rupture. The poem was also born from my appreciation of venerated trees adorned with incense and other offerings for Tet as appeals to ancestors, wronged ghosts, or wandering spirits.”
—Hoa Nguyen