sound & silences

I was born in Sa Đéc, Việt Nam, a French colonial town in the Mekong Delta.  This was where I learned to walk and talk, where I climbed trees and fell out of trees, where I was bitten by leeches and fire ants, and where I taught myself to ride a borrowed bicycle, drawing concentric circles in the dirt around a giant, centipede-infested tree trunk.

Delta rain came down suddenly and in warm sheets; the soil steamed and released a fertile, mud odor that penetrated all orifices.  On humid nights, fireflies lit up the dark countryside and a symphony of frogs and crickets lured me to sleep.

On the morning of my ninth birthday, I carried a child-size, cerise suitcase and left my hometown for the last time. On the walk to the bus station, I was bit by a stray dog.  A piece of my flesh remained wedged in its teeth as it trotted back into town.

My poetic instincts are rooted in the malleable redness of Sa Đéc clay and in the hunger and poverty of a war-torn country.  It is the poetry of the body and of the gut.

biography | published books | published poems

“I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the hunger of my heart, I am trying to bribe you with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.” 
― Jorge Luis Borges

Mary Jane
by Samantha Lê

Oh, Mary Jane,
your bitter, sweet taste
still lingers
in my mouth, as you curl
and dance from my drunken lips.

Your shapeless tongue licks
and tickles my nose,
like a saxophone reed
that vibrates sadly
inside this Paris tunnel,
on a sticky
August evening.

I hang on to you,
just to breathe you,
like the Lizard King breathed
poetry, like Elvis breathed

not freely, but
in harsh,
wonderful bursts
of ecstasy,
as you burn;

and oh,
how you burn,
and scratch
at the walls of my throat…
a poisonous angel, your wings scrape
across my brain.

We stroll among Kings tonight,
Kings who tumbled,
and laughed, and screamed
in this very tunnel,

but breath
no more.


“Mary Jane” was first published in Corridors and later recorded for My Solitude.  ©2001 & 2003 by ​Samantha Lê.  For permission requests, please use the contact form.