you call out to me from your hiding place

Lao New Year, the water ceremony

Lao New Year, the water ceremony

So Father’s Day is tomorrow. It made me think of a poem I wrote for my dad when I was 22 years old.

Seven years ago!* Crazy.

Last weekend, I celebrated my 29th birthday. Birthdays make me feel pretty nostalgic. Well, if I’m being truthful, anything makes me nostalgic: the melody of a song, the way the air smells after the rain, or any number of overwrought poetic imagery that I won’t bore you with, but birthdays really do it for me. It’s a time to reflect and look back on what’s happened and to try to move on.

Now that I’m a year older and with Father’s Day around the corner, it made me think about my dad. My dad and I have had a perplexing relationship. I remember a time when I thought he knew everything. I remember feeling like he was my protector. I remember feeling safe with him.

But then things changed.

Our relationship began to unravel after me, my mom, and dad immigrated to Canada. It’s only in looking back that I realize the turmoil he was going through. He was a highly educated young man from Laos, but in Canada he was no one. He couldn’t speak the language. He felt like an outsider. He felt like less than a person.

Sadly, he took his frustrations out on the ones he loved: my mom and me. Although I don’t condone what happened between me and him and my mom, I’ve tried over the years to understand why our family life was filled with verbal and physical abuse.

I know my dad has made great strides to change himself. He’s now a pastor at the church I grew up in when we arrived in Canada. I’m really proud of him and every time he stands at the podium to speak, I can’t help but remember the man who had once been my protector and who had made me feel safe all those years ago.

Heal, Nokyoung Xayasane

when I was younger I clung to you
the roots of a tree gripping the riverbank
shifting waters could not move us
enveloped by mosquito netting and protected
while balmy breezes blew within a decrepit shanty
the cracks would not let in the pain

shards of light reflecting mirror side up
bruised forearm, broken finger
I cannot find you in your dark
hidden by your rage, I search for you

the splashing, laughing pool
flipping through the pages of a torn photo album
you call out to me from your hiding place
a quiet voice beneath the fists
loving pain, gentle brutality
comforting violence

sometimes, glimpses of you emerge
falling rain, glimmering laughter
and I hope for your light

my image in your eyes
my movements in your stance
quiet rage
shifting below
whispering madness seeps into light
mosquito netting, broken finger
morning grass, afternoon tag
and I remember you
as you were, as you are now

soft folds of a blanket
and the radio hums within the hut
hammock swaying
cradled in the softness, protected in the netting

soothing cooling
ointment glides on the burn
healing tissue replacing cut
a soft scar in the shadow of forgiveness
and I can see your light


*Update: I just realized I wrote this poem when I was 25 years old and not 22 years old. I wrote a similar poem about my dad at 22, which had a less hopeful tone to it. The one above was written during a Creative Writing course while I was in University.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s