Phuong T. Vuong


Country of Origin

(after Safia Elhillo)

country: from medieval Latin contrata (terra) ‘(land) lying opposite’,
from Latin contra ‘against, opposite’

—Oxford English Dictionary

vietnamese word nước means water
vietnamese word nước means country

cháu sống ở nước nào?
child, which country do you live in?
child, which waters do you live in?

an ocean is a stream of water
water you float in
is the country you belong to
salts and tans you
marks citizen glowing brown

if water equals country,
and water feeds lives,
you survive on country

therefore water is requisite for country

therefore water makes country

but here
a country lies opposite from me
a country opposite an ocean
so country opposite water?
a homeland opposite water?
a homeland lying opposite from water is my country?

in what nước does this leave me?


Phuong T. Vuong is an Oakland native, by way of Hue, Viet Nam. She has been awarded fellowships from VONA/Voices and Kearny Street Workshop’s Interdisciplinary Writers Lab. A 2015 Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize finalist, she has been published in Cobalt Review and Tayo Literary Magazine. She is an MFA student at Colorado University in Boulder. She loves Sunday coffee, liberation, and laughing out loud.

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