The sub-zero weather and cryogenic freeze
of your bedroom is your last bid at immortality.
The air conditioner produces an arctic breeze
in this remote corner of Ho Chi Minh City.
Like a sun-bather on a ocean liner,
you doze on the throne of your folding chair.
Arrayed on a tray are “Western” painkillers,
sleeping pills, and black dye for your hair.
I sit beside you, grandson and honorary guest.
Korean soaps play on the television all day,
prepaid for your voluntary house arrest,
dubbed so you can understand what they say.
The karaoker next door stops mid croon—
the electricity has been cut
for the regular blackout on Monday afternoons.
I fan you so you don’t melt.
Your life stretches across three wars.
Your mother was slain by bandits near the village
where you were born. You disobeyed your father,
fell in love with a poet at a young age,
the one who went north for the August Revolution.
He called on fall to block the coming spring.
This romantic version is your historical revision.
Your name means Autumn; you were married off that spring.
These are the hours you’ve come to love and fear:
when Tan Phu district suffers another power outage,
your eyes swim in their sockets, and memory stops
somewhere between temporal bone and lobe.