Calling Names By Do Nguyen Mai

Calling Names

Park. Lee. Kim. Chang. Wong. Yee. Sakurada. Matsumoto. Nagasaki.

These are the names that have authored every word of what we must be. Dark hair, pale skin, cherry lips. Limbs like fragile, flexible bamboo sticks. Steps bound quieter than summer crickets. Like Shanghai Girls. Like Madame Butterfly. Like Memoirs of a Geisha.

But we do not see our faces playing part in the tragedies they’ve painted of their opulent, romantic East.

Where are the girls, black hair bound tightly beneath bamboo hats, running on slick, muddy roads with fifty pounds of rice on their tanned, burned backs to the market to try and make five U.S. cents for the herbs they need to heal their bloody, bruised wounds?

Where are the girls, over-sized guns in their malnourished hands, leaping from tree to tree like leopards ready to pounce on the next American soldier that tries to call sweetly for them, only to leave them wailing like children in a matter of hours?

Where are the girls, hair braided tightly with whispers of expectation, crying for their mothers beneath bright red veils dyed just a shade from the color of freshly spilled blood?

Where are the girls, calloused soles wading through leech-infested, waters, breathing pure, melodious song from lungs rotting with the smoke of war?

Where are the black haired, dark skinned, plum lipped girls with limbs like strong, unyielding rosewood and footsteps as loud as the river rapids?

Where are the Nguyens, the Bahris, the Phas, the Albertos, the Soms, the Ahmads?

Where are we?

Where am I?

By Do Nguyen Mai


My name is Do Nguyen Mai, written last name to first in the traditional formal style, like the way most Vietnamese poets sign their works. I am a Vietnamese-American student living in the Los Angeles area who spends too much of her free time singing old, war-era Vietnamese songs. More of my poetry can be found at

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