The God of My Mother

— from “ Thirty & Ba Mươi ” —

The God of my mother curled up at our front door,
mumbling words neither him nor I could comprehend
He was cold, shivering as rain poured down
without mercy from the dark muted sky
in a stark wasted sight
of a Central Viet Nam afternoon.

As I stood there, soon, bewildered,
all my childish bravado was just pretend
The sound of water hitting tin roof was loud
like a crowd
cheering for the pathetic existence of this “God” and man,
hiding from the monsoon outside
As the tamarind trees swayed violently
and the winds shrieked like vengeful banshees,
I could see the desperation dripping from his dirty hair
I didn’t know that I was supposed to care
I was just a mindless child
and growing up wouldn’t be for another while.

Out stepped my mother with a bowl of rice,
handed to this man without much to say,
as if this was a natural thing,
like the rain or sun rays.

Throughout my life, I’ve always seen her God
Sometimes as an unknown, sick person,
far away in a complex situation
Others, as a woman who needed a job
or an old lonely person longing for a visitor
who wears a faint notion of human touch
Many more times when it got tough
and problems were abstracted away in one or many cultural mistakes
My mother’s God always showed up
and she always greeted Him without a second take.

As I wake and grow older,
seeing new things and many more wonders
I noticed that we’re not alone
And at the end of the day
everyone denies, doubts, has or is looking for a god
Each god is different than one another
yet each one seems to be more “right” than the others.

Even in my own extended family,
there’s a god that doesn’t accept other members
One that hates gay people,
different-race people,
premarital sex offenders
and even their own children’s dreams and earnest murmurs.

Out there, beyond the walls that contain each of us,
some people’s god shows up to funerals
To protest and condemn the dead
only to detest and offend the livings
Apparently their god demands sacrifices for all humanity’s sins.

Sometimes other people’s gods also show up
carrying flags, humorous signs
or riding on motorcycles to hold up a line
They protect the fragile hearts trembling and mourning
for the parts that still holding on to the good-byes
Some hearts never become whole again,
but some gods stay holy the same.

Many more times and many more gods
In certain places, with names one can easily forget
Some people’s gods have more hands
Some people’s gods are white with blue eyes
and some are well tanned
But majority of these gods follow the golden rule
of “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you”
Somehow, some people’s gods always seem to have anger
or wish for bomb and explosion onto innocent people,
justified by their wrath and godly ponders
Many gods seem to be more humans than gods
But once in a while, there are quiet humans more godly than not.

I’m not sure whether time has turned me cynical
or that I’ve given up on looking for the God of my mother
But I’m still gripping tightly to my bowl of rice,
still training my eyes to look again and see
that my God is close to me
and that my God is how I choose
to be the person I should be.

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