The poems crafted below are part fictional and nonfictional. Some details were exaggerated to dramatize, but also to articulate the realities for many Hmong women or women in general. Nothing is to be trivialized.
Little girl, welcome to the world. I cannot wait to see you grow old
Little girl, you’re crawling, walking, and running. You’ve grown into a stunning girl.
Little girl, when was the last time you washed your hands? Only boys play in the sand. You are speaking too loud, you should be embarrassed in front of this crowd.
Little girl, tie up your hair. Your mess leaves me in hopeless despair. How are we going to find you a man if you can’t even cook with a pan?
Little girl, don’t you dare look me in the eyes when I talk to you! Where are you going?!
No! Mother, you listen to me! I won’t stand and listen to you with pity.
Yes, I am a girl, but you won’t put me in a box and break me with your words thrown at me like rocks.
I am a girl, and you may look at me as if there are a million things to fix, but I will burn down your walls and rise out of the ashes like a Phoenix.
I am a girl and I was born to conquer the world.
Ua Siab Ntev*
My dear husband, I don’t know what happened last night, but you came home angered, furious, an silent.
Our children waited happily at the door when they heard you pulled into the driveway, ecstatic their dad would spare them a minute.
This morning, I tried to ask, but you were consumed by the screen in front of you. I insisted, oh what a foolish thing to do.
I am sorry, I should have waited because you weren’t ready and I should have told the kids to stop yelling for their daddy.
It’s now late into the evening, tell me dear, I’ve put the kids in bed.
I can see the frustration all over your face.
You screamed, “what don’t you fucking understand? I’m tired of coming home to this…this place”.
I can’t remember why, but words were exchanged.
Words of anger and resentment poured out of my mouth.
You were tired, but I’m sick of this house, your family, you and more YOU!
I can’t remember, but I woke up this morning with a bruise.
I sit in front of the mirror.
Tears gushing out of my eyes, but I can hear the little footsteps coming up the stairs.
There is no better magic than a little…wait, no, a handful of powder to cover up the mess.
Two little bodies jumped into my arms as I cradled them into my breasts.
I drove to your house mom and the road felt like walking down a narrow path of shame.
Embarrassed, because it rings clear in my ears:
“I told you not to marry him.”
“I told you not to have the second child.”
“I told you!”
I’m going to stay hopeful. I mean after all you are my mom. I’m sure you are going to say:
“Come home. Stay.”
But instead, you said:
“Ua siab ntev.”
Mother, your youth is admirable.
Your long black and silky hair draped over your shoulders.
Your soul exuberant with life and longing for adventures.
Tell me, when did you stop dreaming of dreams and chasing after tomorrow?
When did your eyes stopped shining its light and started to fill with sorrow?
Did the darkness in the woods stripped you of your spirit while you clutched onto your child who cried out very minute?
Mother, the wrinkles on your forehead speaks of a story filled with courage and haunting glory.
When you shrieked in bed, not once nor twice, but eight times giving life to creation from the Divine.
You wear the scars on your body a resilient victress, but I see you’ve pained silently from a history of distress, from locking away your desires to explore and sacrificing your youth for my galore.
Mother, forgive me for my ignorance and stubborn ways.
For allowing my inexperience mind fight you every day.
The times when I shut my door in your face and screamed at you names I cannot replace.
No matter the money or fame, I can never repay the sufferings you were blamed.
But now I know, to be a mother is not a light responsibility.
You’ve done it with so much humility.
I see you lying there with your eyes closed, no life.
You don’t budge and the pain struck me like a knife.
I love you and thank you for the grace you’ve given despite the disappointment you’ve easily forgiven.
Don’t worry mother, I’ll look after father and make sure your legacy is remembered.
I see you.
I see the creases on your forehead have widen to the corners of your eyes.
I see the gray hair on your head.
I see the dark patches underneath your eyes.
I see your shaking hands as you scoop stale rice onto your spoon.
But I cannot help alleviate the pain from you.
I hear you.
I hear you breathing, wheezing
I hear your grunts when you push your body off the chair
I hear your heavy feet drag behind you
I hear the cries you hide behind your unemotional expressions
But I cannot speak the words, “let me help you.”
I love you.
I love that you never allowed anything less than a B so that I can push for great, not good
I love that you never stopped working so that I can live my dreams
I love that you never gave up even when your heart failed you and you collapsed on the floor, alone, only to wake up to resume the work you needed to do.
I love that even at 60 years old, you are still the pillar of our family, our future, and our successes.
You don’t say, I love you
And I cannot say the words “I love you”
But I know, Kuv Ntxiv, your love is greater than any other.
* Ua Siab Ntev – Be patient or be tolerant.
** Kuv Ntxiv – My dad.