sounds & 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 home for the last time.  On the walk to the bus station, a stray dog pursued me down the road and bit me from behind.  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


Defining Love
by Samantha Lê

I only need a moment—
a moment to come into my own,
a moment
to free myself from this lonely space
that lives between the sunken shadows
and laughing lights.

I only need a moment—
a moment to detangle myself
from the sweet smelling
cherry blossoms
of childhood—
in order to become the woman
who stands before you now
with white plums
in her wrinkled hands,
asking again for forgiveness.

I only need a moment—
a moment to rediscover
the paintings of my heart,
the dragonflies and butterflies
on ruffled ties—
just a moment longer
to recognize… memorize…
the beauty in your deep brown eyes
when it’s reflecting mine.

I only need a moment—
one simple moment,
to recall
just exactly why,
and exactly how it has become
that I am the woman you’ve sworn to love.


“Defining Love” was first published in My Solitude.  ©2003 by ​Samantha Lê.  For permission requests, please use the contact form.