Carnegie Mellon University

"baby steps" 

Honorable Mention for College Poetry

your tiny legs are the antidote
as you heave yourself up
knees trembling like the last leaf on a tree
like Bambi
like the guitar strings
your father plucks
to drown out the bombs and gunshots
inside his dreams
he looks upon your chubby cheeks and sings
you are
so lovely
 
your coos and babbles are a lullaby
to your mother and the heart
she ripped out in Ho Chi Minh
and left behind with everyone else
there in Vietnam
her sisters’ buzzing gossip as they chop up the greens
the roar of motorcycles and merchants congesting the streets
and your grandfather’s rumble of laughter
are all just whispers compared to your giggles
here in America
you are
so lovely
 
your big moon-like eyes are medicine to your sister
the bills your parents can’t read
cozied up with her multiplication tables
her classmates’ snickers
cozied up with her pride
why’s your name spelled weird
what kind of food is that
what’s wrong with your eyes
fade as you grasp her index finger
in a tiny fist and wave it
like a star-spangled banner
you are
so lovely
 
as you wobble on the carpet
and your family inhales sharply
as you take that first    step
step
step
their claps thunderous
their smiles maniacal
as the wind knocks on the door
 
icy like the stares people throw
when they hear your parents chirp
in a song they can’t understand
big like the dollar signs
stamped on the
blue jeans        sleek cars        shiny straight smiles
that this world demands
it is a wind that
threatens to blow the house
their blood
their names
into dust.
 
oh lovely baby
don’t you dare
fall
down.

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