or: When I Asked a Vietnamese-Czech Woman How Much For a Bag of Vinamit, She Asked Me a Question I Could Not Answer
What I really wanted to ask you was,
How do you live here? In the cold,
the bitter winds, the crushing homogeneity
of this landlocked mass of landlocked
people? Do you miss home—& where is that?
What do you eat; what do you
drink? Is every apple here edged
with the taste of metal, sharp & anathema
to body—or is that simply my own tongue
Do you dream at night of jungle,
of limestone cliff? If nước is water & also
country, from which well did you draw
to survive in this waterless country?
Did you struggle; did you struggle long enough
for people to start calling it beautiful?
Am I wrong in assuming you struggled at all?
What I mean is, can you also see the water
in the water? If so, would you say you are
like me? What I mean is, am I of a whole?
Johanna Dong is currently studying economics at New York University, though she was born and raised in Southern California. Her prose has appeared in The Rumpus, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Margins, TRACK//FOUR Journal, The Jellyfish Review, and The Southeast Review; one of her short stories has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net.