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Vietnam, 1975

Poem from Hoa Tran who left Viet Nam in 1975 after the fall of Sai Gon. She has a series of poems that share many aspects of the departure as well as being a refugee and an immigrant. This one is entitled "Departure."


Tet 1975
Along with the festivities
Came the blood
that crawled out of open wounds
taking along with it
someone's soul

The war crept
closer and closer
to our home

My family and I
were forced to leave


As we approached the huge ship
panic suddenly overwhelmed me

All I could see was the figure of my father
walking away

"Wait for me, Daddy!"

I could hear myself screaming
but my lips never moved

"Wait for me!"

Desperate people everywhere
Running in all different directions
Chaos and madness
suffocated me

I was so frightened
A burst of flaming tears
poured rapidly down my face

My lungs collapsed
into heavy breaths for air

I blended into the chaos
and was so terrified that
my father would not see me
and I would lose him

I ran after him
He walked faster and faster

"Where are you going?
Wait for me, Daddy!"

Hopeless words
echoed through my head

I lost one of my shoes
during the struggle

I had not realized
until I heard a familiar voice
calling my name

I turned toward its direction

My mother kneeled
to pick my shoe off the ground

I turned back toward
my father's direction
He disappeared among the crowd
boarding the ship

My gaze was frozen
lost and emotionless
paralyzed with fear


Suddenly a ship guard
picked me up
and threw me in a netted sack
along with children my age

Like a potato
I was carried from the ground
up to several feet
dangling in mid air

The sack landed
and dumped us
on the floor

To my surprise
I saw my family
and instantly
ran towards them


Several days went by
that seemed like years

Being on the top deck
there was no roof
no cover
The sky's waters
beat against our flesh

Our scarce possessions
were shredded by the rain
My father released them
into the vastness of the sea

I watched
My older sister
sitting at a corner
Clutching her photograph album
with her knuckles white
and arms wrapped tightly

Her whole life was in that book
Most of the photographs
were destroyed

But there was no way
she would allow
the ocean to swallow
it from her


I turned away
closed my eyes
crawled up on the floor
and held my knees
close to my chest

The wind came
and dried my tears


I awakened
and looked over the rail
I could see
the cliffs and valley
of my place of birth
slowly fading

An empty horizon appeared
My home had sunken into the ocean --Hoa Tran

Most of the photographs from Viet Nam were destroyed during their long travel to the U.S. These are some of the very few that she has in her possession. They were taken a few years before 1975.

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Hoa's baby picture in their backyard

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Hoa's mother after her return from the market. Photo was taken by Hoa's father.

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Her sister and her friends, on their way back home from a festival




Gretchen Morgan, stories at immigrantjourneys Dot com, P.O. Box 661467, Sacramento, CA 95866-1467

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