When my grandfather holds my grandmother, Saigon still smolders on the ashes of April. When my grandfather holds my grandmother, he lowers his head, the way the hunted have always bent over their own reflection to drink. When my grandfather holds my grandmother, his schoolboy arms trace etymologies over her waist, how the Vietnamese word for “remember” and “miss” are the same while his nose relearns a scent, he relearns a year— as if to walk through the kitchen window you’d still see paper milk-flowers bursting into flames while the stars gape like the sky’s bullet wounds; and where my grandfather holds her, smoke soldiers, also, dig ghost claws in her wrist, chanting bạn có nhớ tôi không? My grandfather holds my grandmother in a history never ended, as if somewhere between his hands, the city smolders on.
By Samantha Liu, 16, New Jersey. She adds: “As for myself, I am a fifteen year-old aspiring writer in New Jersey. I’ve been trying so hard to relearn and revisit my Asian heritage recently – part Mandarin Chinese, part Vietnamese. My grandparents from both sides are children of war, of Mao, of Tet. The bloodshed of the twentieth century, much of it perpetuated by America itself, is etched in my family history. Much of it is cruel. Much of it is turbulent. Much of it inspires bouts of PTSD while I, nine and unknowing, huddle in a corner. But some of it, as I tried to write in “When my grandfather holds my grandmother,” is light. It is how my grandfather and grandmother fell in love, in the ardent and all-consuming way of people who might not see another day. To me, this is the legacy of Vietnam—not politicking, not ideology, but humanity. I have inherited a war, and I will continue to unravel it.”