December 3, 1975

December 3, 1975


a golden shovel

My mother wakes early
to go to church. Dawn
redux. Her áo dài is Virgin Mary blue.
Her hair is still long, reflecting light.
A border control officer filters
through her documents, preparing to send her through
to their new home destination. The
casting call goes out in the meantime: Paid extras needed for jungle
defoliation scene. Apocalypse Now and
Hearts of Darkness play across
the screen of my mother’s face. I glimpse a flicker, a
flare, then the sudden foul
odor of napalm & oil in the swamp.


In the opening scene, a
man showers. The mist
rises & clings
to the blue tarp, temporary walls to
maintain the privacy of the
100 refugees at the Jose Fabella Center. Trees
flank the main road. This
stay could
last forever, or it could be
a stopgap before the
repatriation of our protagonist—back to the jungle
where he would have spent a decade of
his 30s into 40s, being tortured in a
reeducation camp, lucky to not be one of 3.9 million
dead. He scrubs off his 12 years
as a soldier, a long 6 months ago.


Dissolve. Our
protagonists in a small boat at sea. View
of my mother’s pallid face. The camera moves
to the sea, as the boat drifts closer
toward land in the distance. Through
starlight, then dawn light, the
journey begins its 8th day. Mist
burns off. Cut to my mother tilting
a canteen toward her lips. She drinks down
seasickness. Cut to
Sê, visibly pregnant, clinging to the
edge as the boat lurches over a wave. Cut to my father cooking cháo cá over a tepid
fire, then, my mother unloading a mouthful of bile into the water.

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