“History Lesson From Anh Hai”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Feb. 19 2013 9:18 AM

“History Lesson From Anh Hai”

"Seeing", Digital Collage, 2002.

Collage by Monica Ong

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Duy Doan read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

I spoke to Great-Aunt tonight. She sounded like her sister.
It had been fifty years since they’d last spoken; mom said they cried over the phone.
Bà Nội used to always tell me đi tu đi con. But I know
The difference between tu and tù is one mark.

Fifty years since they’d last spoken; mom said they cried.
The night father braved the jungles, Bà Nội also cried.
The difference between tu and tù is one mark.
Once I heard about a monk who died setting himself on fire.

Bà Nội cried the night father braved the jungles.
They were bad times. A nun and monk were made to fornicate in the street.
Once I heard about a monk who set himself on fire.
Twenty years later the rodent problem—200 đồng per severed tail.

They were bad times. A nun and monk made to fornicate in the street.
Bà Nội used to always say đi tu đi con. But I know.
Twenty years later the rodent problem—200 đồng per severed tail.
I spoke to Great-Aunt tonight. She sounded like Bà Nội.

Glossary

Anh Hai: older brother, the oldest son 
Bà Nội: paternal grandmother
đi tu đi con: enter the priesthood; become a monk
tu: priesthood
tù: prison

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won't Stop Running
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 17 2014 11:06 AM Inside the Exclusive World of Members-Only Clubs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 11:14 AM How Does That Geometry Problem Make You Feel? Computer tutors that can read students’ emotions.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.