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ON SUNDAYS


rice paddy

ON SUNDAYS

On Sundays students who can afford to,
take English lessons to work

for parents who work
in English because English

is where the money is. But
she doesn’t teach English, Sundays

she walks two miles deeper
from the building, where she lives

with other teachers, to find
students weaving bamboo baskets

while watching younger siblings, then
walks between rice fields to

rice fields to find their parents.
And waits. At break or lunch

under a tree, she listens to them
say, the words don’t feed

the stomach. Yet she comes
so that by evening, when they arrive

home, they find her in the yard
drawing words on the dirt

while students work and watch
and say. Then they eat dinner.

Over rice and yam, boiled water
cress and salted radish, they find

other things that feed the stomach:
the height she’s gained with mud

sticking to her thongs; or, as the children
say it, their heads thrown back

in open-mouth laugh, the bamboo snapped
at her weaving; or the way “l”

is tall and skinny, and then “b”
is “l” with their father’s stomach. Soon

her students come to class
because the teacher is nice

and parents don’t want her
to walk so far on Sundays.

(Poem by Nhan Trinh)

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5 comments on “ON SUNDAYS

  1. Ah, yes. That’s the way it’s done: not with legislation, not by force, not with threats or ridicule, but with the simple appeal of someone who cares, bringing something of value.

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  2. This poem was written by a Vietnamese friend who returned to Vietnam to teach English. He is a loving and caring man who would believe in bringing something of value to others who will never have the opportunities he has had. His family came to this country as boat people as so many others came. He was twelve years old, and obviously missed his homeland after he grew up, so he returned to be of help.

    You, having lived in a 2nd world country in a ‘helping’ capacity, get it. I often wonder how many of us give a thought to serving our fellow man?

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  3. Very lovely. I esp appreciate this funny observation, “the height she’s gained with mud/
    sticking to her thongs.”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having experienced the increase in height from mud on my thongs/shoes it does make it come home doesn’t it? I always feel like such a shallow person: he wore a jacket which I loved, and would have loved to borrow! He taught me to keep dipping my tea bag in the hot water to get the right color!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The caring soul of the author shines through.

    Liked by 1 person

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