Minh Pham

Minh Pham was born in Saigon, Vietnam and became a Riverside, California native at age eight. He received an MFA. from the University of California at Riverside. His poetry has been published in Kartika Review, Yes, Poetry, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and others. His nonfiction is forthcoming from The Rattling Wall.


Chasing a Boy

I had dreams of chasing a boy along the Mekong.

I followed him

through a doorway hidden behind my grandmother’s altar.

I was afraid of wandering too far away from my family,

but the boy’s smile called me to come.


His black bangs covered his eyes.


I chased him to a house,

took off my straw sandals,

and stepped inside.

Wooden crane statues and yellow lanterns lit with iridescent flies.

I looked back at the path toward my grandparents’ house.

The door swung close.


A Sister’s Love 

The wooden stairs
Cracked with my steps.
When I walked up
I felt the splinters.

“That bong lai cai does
Not belong in our house,”

My mother said to Uncle.
“You will not be like him.”

My stomach quieted down
All that was left

Pangs replaced
By memories of

Ground beef
And rice porridge

With the scent of blanched-
Diced green onions

That she made when
I was weak

And could not chew
Full jasmine grains.

Up more steps. Four women
Surrounded him in candlelight.

I could only hear my mother’s voice,
“Ong Troi will smite the whole family

Because of you.”
I saw him when I reached the top

Something was missing,
And could not return.

“You can’t love him.
That is not love,” she said,

Jabbing into my uncle,
Her fingers like gun motions firing.

My aunts stood behind her,
Their shadows

Coming down the staircase
Toward me.

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