Little Sister

At the end of our lesson
At the Bread Co on South Grand
You gave me a simple assignment:
“Write a four-line poem in Vietnamese”

You came to this country at age eight
Started school right away
Graduated university with a 3.75
Exude the poise of a sage in a 24 year-old frame

What if your English teacher told you at age twelve
“Write a sonnet”?
And you then went and read sonnet 18 of Sếch-xpia
You thought it would help

Likewise, I made the mistake of reading Hồ Xuân Hương
You made the assignment sound easy
But Vietnamese poetics are beyond me
As beyond me as the Buddha’s way is inconceivable!

Flash!  It just occurred to me—
Behind your encouraging smile
Is the fire and steel mind of a Zen Master:
That assignment was my koan!

I know you won’t give me any credit for writing these lines
Instead of four lines in tiếng Việt
That’s OK, Thúy
I have so, so far to go

I’m so happy

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