“Kitchen Ghosts” by Samantha Lê published in Copper Nickel

In this poem about mental illness, there’re two speakers weaving their thoughts together into one tapestry of consciousness. Mother and daughter shared the same narrative of shame and guilt as each started out as the inadequate caregiver who then became the confused, frightened patient. As the disease threaded its way through the generations, their history of pain and secrecy repeated itself.

[…] Your dough palm
covers my face and silences
closed-lid admissions.
Listen.
A history of mothers
and daughters splitting
into halves the way
of green apples.
[…]

Read complete poem at: “Kitchen Ghosts.” Copper Nickel  (University of Colorado Denver), Denver, CO, Issue No. 29, Fall 2019, pp. 128-129. Copper Nickel is a national literary journal was founded by poet Jake Adam York in 2002 and housed at the University of Colorado Denver. Work published in Copper Nickel has appeared in the Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, Best Small Fictions, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays anthology.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“In the Presence of the Kitchen Gods” by Samantha Lê published in Copper Nickel

In this simple poem about limitations and boredom, we see a woman’s life reduced to the daily tasks of cleaning a house, but in the mundane minutes of that stalled life there’s still a glimmer of hope, for she dances when she sweeps.

She sweeps evening dust
off grout lines with the straw
broom that hangs like sadness
behind the old fridge.

[…]
The only time she looks
as if she were dancing
is when she stirs air into dirt.
[…]

Read complete poem at: “In the Presence of the Kitchen Gods.” Copper Nickel (University of Colorado Denver), Denver, CO, Issue No. 29, Fall 2019, pp. 130. Copper Nickel is a national literary journal was founded by poet Jake Adam York in 2002 and housed at the University of Colorado Denver. Work published in Copper Nickel has appeared in the Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, Best Small Fictions, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and has been listed as “notable” in the Best American Essays anthology.

Photo by Steve Rybka on Unsplash

“Down River” by Samantha Lê published in The Journal

A young girl watched her big sister from across the riverbank as she threw their pet dog into the water, where he was carried off and drowned.

His rag body swung
into the swells
of her rage.

The big sister denied this memory, but the young girl insisted on remembering.  And though time marches on, it cannot erase this betrayal that has wedged itself between them once upon a time when they were both still young.

Big sister and I stood
on opposite banks
The phantom stink of water
coated the inside of our mouths.
We tried to gag it out,
but it lingered.

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“Down River.”  The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 48. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology.  Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.

“Phôi Pha (Wither)” by Samantha Lê published in The Journal

“Phôi Pha (Wither)” is a poem about old age, about being the only one left to tend to the dead, about there being no one left to send you off when your journey begins again.

no one left to burn spirit money
and paper houses
incense dust grows into ant hills

The subject of the poem remembers her youth, when she once was the “village beauty …body pink and firm as pomelo flesh.”

[…] she recalls
girlhood dreams the way a fictional
woman remembers love faithful
to an altered truth

If all that she is are her memories, then how is her existence defined now that all the witnesses to her life are gone?

grayscale photography of brown and black bench

“Phôi Pha (Wither).”  The Journal (The Ohio State University), Columbus, OH, Volume 42 Issue No. 3, Summer 2018, pp. 47. The award-winning literary journal of The Ohio State University, The Journal has recently had poems reproduced in the Best American Poetry anthology.  Founded in 1973 by William Allen The Journal has published prominent writers such as Carl Phillips, Mary Jo Bang, John D’Agata, Terrance Hayes, Lia Purpura, Ander Monson, Brenda Hillman, D.A. Powell, Jericho Brown, and Donald Ray Pollack.

“Watching Dad’s Porn on the VCR” by Samantha Lê published in The Minnesota Review

In “Watching Dad’s Porn on the VCR,” a poem about girlhood, the speaker of the poem searches for her identity in the images reflected back at her from the television screen “…Mouth of a prophet, tongue of a poet….” Her sense of self is tangled up in what she believes to be the definition of a man—the one for whom the women on the screen carry out their performances.

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Watching Dad’s Porn on the VCR.” The Minnesota Review (Virginia Tech, Duke University Press), Durham, NC, Issue No. 90, Spring 2018, pp. 15. Publishing contemporary poetry and fiction as well as reviews, critical commentary, and interviews of leading intellectual figures, The Minnesota Review curates smart, accessible collections of progressive new work.

“Border Crossing” by Samantha Lê published in The Minnesota Review

In “Border Crossing,” the speaker of the poem laments about being labeled an “illegal.” She remembers a life, before the change in geography, where she was a complete person, “but between the leaving and entering they changed how they look at me—objects once labeled can’t be relabeled, you know.” Somehow in the border crossing, her existence was reduced to one word, a word that carries with it all the weight of past and future discriminations.

photo of woman walk through pathway

Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Border Crossing.” The Minnesota Review (Virginia Tech, Duke University Press), Durham, NC, Issue No. 90, Spring 2018, pp. 14. Publishing contemporary poetry and fiction as well as reviews, critical commentary, and interviews of leading intellectual figures, The Minnesota Review curates smart, accessible collections of progressive new work.

“That Other Guy” by Samantha Lê published in Outlook Springs

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Who hasn’t secretly wanted to be that other guy?

the one
made up of consonants
and super hero punches
the guy with a secret name
no one can pronounce […]

We live in an age of comparisons.  We write farfetched narratives for the lives of strangers, friends and acquaintances, then find ourselves, by comparison, to be as soft and unappetizing as a croissant in a microwave.  It is madness.

“That Other Guy” is published in Issue No. 4 of Outlook Springs, Spring 2018, pp. 71, a literary journal from another dimension devoted to fiction, poetry, and non-fiction tinged with the strange.

“The Way to Cái Răng Floating Market” by Samantha Lê published by Bayou Magazine

Cai_Rang

The child rides on the backseat of the family’s bicycle and takes stock of Vietnam’s ravaged countryside after the revolution—its people and animals, its landscape and violent history.  “The Way to Cái Răng Floating Market” captures the complicated adult world through the eyes of a child—the humming poverty and hunger, the trembling of the land.  Geography is destiny, and this fact becomes the child’s identity.  She sees her future, and it is the product of a past that she did not help to create.

[…]
A stuck sensation—the way fish
bones dig at the throat—
the old woman sings water-buffalo-
herding songs and breaks
the topsoil with a hoe: a rusty tin turns
upside down, a clump
of clay drops to the ground. […]

“The Way to Cái Răng Floating Market” is published in Issue No. 68 of Bayou Magazine, Winter 2018, pp. 86-87. Founded in 2002, Bayou Magazine is a biannual, national literary magazine published by The University of New Orleans.  Writing that first appeared in this journal has been short-listed for the Pushcart Prize and named in the notable essays list in Best American Essays.

 

“Visions of the Aging Poet” by Samantha Lê published by The Lullwater Review

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In “Visions of the Aging Poet,” the young writer glimpses visions of her aging poet teacher outside the halls of academia where he’s god.  Under the light of an ordinary day, she realizes the evolution of their relationship, how she’s poised to take his place on the world’s stage, but he’s not ready to let go.  He struggles against history to remain relevant.

[…]
At the podium, you sprout beak without heart.
Smoky breaths; velvet tongue.
Face chapped
with unwritten lines. Desperate
for love, you chase away the audience […]

The complete version of this poem is published in Vol. XXVI of The Lullwater Review, Winter 2018 issue, pp. 23.  The Lullwater Review is Emory University’s nationally recognized student-run literary review founded in 1990.

 

“Tongue Tied” by Samantha Lê published by Tule Review

A short and punchy poem about the cannibalistic nature love.  In “Tongue Tied,” the speaker of the poem laments about being devoured by her lover, yet she accepts it and goes along with it, continuing to insist on “nothing” until she manages to forget what she tries to deny.

“Tongue Tied” is published in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Tule Review.  Tule Review is the publication of the Sacramento Poetry Center (Sacramento, CA). Publishes once a year, the journal showcases new writers and award winners from the region and across the nation.

“My Father on That Last Day of Summer, 1983” & “Morning Market, Sa Đéc 1981” by Samantha Lê published in Perfume River Poetry Review

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I’m honored to announce the publication of two poems from my Vietnam series in the “Vietnam Forever,” 5th Anniversary double issue of Perfume River Poetry Review by Tourane Poetry Press in San Jose, California.

 

About “Morning Market, Sa Đéc 1981

For this poem, I highlighted the collection of scenes from the market place as representatives of a larger reality.  Post-war Vietnam, where the transfer of wealth from one privileged class to another had created incomprehensible poverty and deficit, was “the worst of times.”  People haggled over the price of one green mango and one liter of fish sauce.  A toy pot made of clay was considered a luxury item.  And when human and cultural survival is under such an attack, sometimes it’s necessary to pretend not to see the disturbing things right in front of you (just as the child in the poem pretended not to see the fly walked across the old woman’s eyes) in order for life to press onward.  By showing these scenes through a child’s lens, I remove politics from the narrative, making the political personal.  War is personal.  Hunger is personal.  [read poem, page 21]

About “My Father on That Last Day of Summer, 1983

This poem is as much a tribute to my wanderlust father as it is a tribute to the place that we both love.  Vũng Tàu on the South China Sea was once bright and full of colors, but now only lives as an ideal backdrop for daydreams.  Written as a blank verse, I wanted to use the structure of the traditional form to capture the rhythm of the sea, which was the constant heartbeat beneath the skin of all our narratives.  [read poem, page 23]

 

About “Vietnam Forever” from Vuong Vo, Editor of Perfume River Poetry Review

I have decided to do a double issue for our fifth anniversary.  One issue will explore Vietnamese culture, celebrate our heritage, and give voice to what it means to be Vietnamese.  The second issue will be a tribute to Vietnam War veterans and survivors, whose stories need to be told and need to be heard—now more than ever.  As there must be time for war and a time for peace, there too must an issue for war and one that allows poems to sing about Vietnam.  Print issues are $15 each.

“Making Love on the Roof” by Samantha Lê is published in The Boiler Journal

I’m honored to announce the publication of my poem “Making Love on the Roof” Summer 2017 issue of The Boiler Journal.  This issue is available free online.

About “Making Love on the Roof

On a city rooftop, two people try to find momentary relief from loneliness by surrendering their bodies to each other—to the possibility of something different.  Away from the rooftop, the man writes poetry about a woman named Ruth, and the woman makes mock turtle stew; but on the roof they play the parts of strangers clutching to connect with someone in the world.  [read poem]

About The Boiler Journal

Began by a group of writers at Sarah Lawrence College, The Boiler Journal is an online quarterly that publishes fresh and lively works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from emerging and established authors.