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 was born in the Mekong Delta near Saigon, Vietnam. When she was eighteen months old, she moved to the United States and was raised in the Washington, D.C., area. Nguyen earned her MFA at the New College of California in San Francisco, where she studied with Tom Clark and Lyn Hejinian, and remained active in the Bay Area poetry scene for years before moving in 1997 to Austin, Texas, where she lived for fourteen years. While in Austin, Nguyen cofounded—along with her husband, poet Dale Smith—Skanky Possum, a small press poetry journal and book imprint through which they published the work of poets such as Amiri Baraka, Linh Dinh, Eileen Myles, and Alice Notley.
Nguyen is the author of six poetry collections: A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure (Wave Books, 2021), Violet Energy Ingots (Wave Books, 2016), Red Juice: Poems 1998–2008 (Wave Books, 2014), As Long as Trees Last (Wave Books, 2012), Hecate Lochia (Hot Whiskey Press, 2009), and Your Ancient See Through (Subpress, 2002).
“Hoa Nguyen’s poems might appear fragmented at first—like pieces of broken china … but the pieces of image and story that make up her poems prove to be more particle than fragment, each integral and necessary. The space between these particles is as meaningful as the space between stars. The poems move according to an order that reveals its presence slowly, offering humor and beauty as rewards along the way,” writes Iris Cushing in BOMB.
Nguyen has performed, lectured, and fulfilled residencies at a number of colleges and universities, including Brown University, Buffalo State, Naropa University, the Toronto New School of Writing, and the University of Texas at Austin. The recipient of a 2019 MacDowell Fellowship, she is faculty at Bard MFA and lives in Tkaronto.
Date Published: 2018-04-06
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/ficus-carica-sonnet