Sunday, March 04, 2018


I wrote this, intending to submit it (and a few others) for the Golden Point Awards 2015, a national writing competition. So I thought I would polish it up a bit, office work took its toll and the deadline breezed by (can you imagine it was three years already?). So yeah, forget it, I will just post it here (and the rest of the lot, if ..) Wonder how it will perform in the competition though. :)

drawing by dsnake1 done with Sketchpad 4.0



When I was a small boy, my father would talk to me in hallowed tones about Dien Bien Phu, showed me from some Chinese magazines, the monochrome prints of tired soldiers, a landscape so scarred by shells it could well be the moon and parachutes in the air like thin black mushrooms. I do not understand why a battlefield in Vietnam could excite him so.


My father had come to South East Asia, looking for their Ellis Islands, their torches bringing them to a new land, as insects attracted to light, growing roots, hear the fledgling politicians pounding their socialist rhetoric, taking sides, staking a claim on an opportunity, building a home from scratch.


In time, i served this new land, i bit a cigarette too, dug foxholes in hills, filled sand-bags just like some French troopers, biting on their Gauloises, in some hell hole in South East Asia. Only difference was, i need not fire a shot in anger, our Anne-Maries, Beatrices and Isabelles were not trampled upon, and died.


Later I retraced my father's words, understood why Dien Bien Phu made him proud of his skin, why we may forgive, but never forget, even among our own creed. And why my parents made sure that their children do have an opportunity that they were denied. In time I understood all these, there was so much learning even in a house without electricity and running water...


bright pressure lamp
moths come in from the night
to die

written 08/04/2007
revised 13/06/2007
revised 25/01/2013

“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”

― Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems

And a song if you are thinking of home : CSNY - Our House

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2018

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

What truth and reality in your words....from a different part of the world, but the longing for our lives and children's lives are the same. Well done.

04 March, 2018 23:46  
Blogger Jae Rose said...

You have written something quite magnificent here

04 March, 2018 23:48  
Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

A wonderful poem of memory, Lee San. I am struck by the moonscape of littered shells.we havent leaned much. Now they talk of nuclear war as if it is survivable.

05 March, 2018 00:01  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...

thank you, Donna.
i think as parents, we will want the best for our children. :)

05 March, 2018 00:16  
Blogger brudberg said...

This is such a strong story from a part of the world I grew up hearing about in the News... I just hope that it will normalize even more over time.

05 March, 2018 01:20  
Blogger annell said...

I love that you wrote about moths, I love them. But really, I wish they wouldn't eat my Sunday-best clothes. They come in, they take advantage. I try to hide my clothes, but they find them, have radar, and know right where I put them. Perhaps they do come in to die, but they also lay their eggs and eat my best.

05 March, 2018 01:32  
Blogger Mary said...

I could really feel this poem. You gave us a glimpse of what it was like to grow up in your part of the world. Admittedly I am going to have to once more look up Dien Bien Phu. Yes, parents try to give their children what they didn't have. Sounds like your parents were pretty successful at that. Really powerful writing. I feel honored to have you share your words with us.

05 March, 2018 03:07  
Blogger Toni Spencer said...

Who cares how it would do in a competition? What matters is how it reaches us, your readers. So much truth in your words, your father looking for the Ellis Island of Southeast Asia. I have friends who survived the Khmer Rouge. the last one, V, speaks to me. It is true of us all but especially those who survived horrors. I'm sure they looked for America which they have lost with this last....president.

05 March, 2018 04:17  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Wonderful writing! Your poem and Bjorn's bring back such indelible memories ... even at one remove.

05 March, 2018 06:11  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...


thank you! :)


thanks. i can still remember those pictures my father showed me, the 'moonscapes' and scared faces of both sides. i knew he survived WWII but that was a different war.

05 March, 2018 08:39  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...


it will. look at Japan, South Korea and China.


sorry about the moths ruining your clothes.


i think education is one of the main keys to success. we lived in a squatter colony, but my siblings and i have access to schools.
Dien Bien Phu showed the world how an Asian ragtag army can defeat a European power. it was shocking at that time.
thank you for the kind words. :)


your latest president is trying to stop immigration.
my parents came to this part of south east asia looking for a better life. they met here, got married, and laid down roots. i should have delve deeper to find out the reasons for them coming here. now it's too late.


thank you.
i am sure most of us have ancestors who flee to other lands due to wars, famine or persecution.

05 March, 2018 16:26  
Blogger Wendy Bourke said...

This is an impactful story - that resonates, all the more, by virtue of the personal connection you have with it. Poetically it is masterfully rendered. The moth metaphor with which you have titled and closed the piece is stunning. A brilliant work of poetry.

06 March, 2018 07:53  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...

thank you, Wendy.

yes, i wanted to show that immigrants are like moths.
that's why the statue of Liberty holds a torch. :)

06 March, 2018 09:15  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday.

It will always be useful to read articles from other
writers and practice a little something from other web sites.

08 March, 2018 10:31  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...


thanks. :)

08 March, 2018 23:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there! This blog post couldn't be written much better!

Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
He always kept talking about this. I am going to send this article to him.
Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

03 February, 2019 18:54  
Anonymous dsnake1 said...

Anon, thanks! :)

04 February, 2019 00:01  

Post a Comment

<< Home