The stone is lodged in my throat, there, at the base of my neck. If I curl up like this, it may pass, too.

A video triggers a memory, flickers a sound. On. The p-ain, the p-ain punctures my lips. A hailstorm falls out.

Mami, do you remember the way the waiter laughed at your accent? Later, the media will call this kind of mockery, with slanted eyes pulled back and dirty gapped teeth, free speech. Mami, do you remember how moms in mini-vans shout at us in the parking lot?

In the name of free speech, let you smile to show you are a “good Vietnamese.” Bite our tongues and drive home in silence, for we do not have the words to recover from the bullet wounds of everyday racism, everyday “free speech.”

“Do not think about it,” you say.

Then what am I supposed to do with the venom that falls freely?

Fuck you. I want to say. White pig. White devil. White. White. Laughing faces. White motherfuckers. Fuck you. Fuck you.

“Sophia,” you say. “Try.”

Mami, let’s dream of palm trees again. The ones you plant keep dying. The ones you plant keep dying. Mami, make another brother if you can. The ones you birth keep dying. The ones you birth keep dying.

If I learned your language, could we talk like sisters again?

The words I write keep wilting. The words I write keep wilting. Mami, make another boat if you can. The ones we leave keep waiting. The ones we leave keep waiting.

I visit my grandfather, Le Van Tan, once a year. If I ever had the chance to meet him in person, Mami, you would have nervously reminded me seven times on the plane trip over to bow with my arms crossed properly.

“Arms like this, emi-chan! Arms like this!”

“Okaasan, I know! Okay?!”

Instead, I call for him once a year. Le Van Tan. Le Van Tan. It is always a short visit. For the most part, I am mute, unable to even say a proper hello in a language that evaporates from the tongue. He thinks of my name as “Little One,” and I don’t mind.

I don’t mind. I look more like my Japanese father anyway, and his name translates to just that—“One.”

Grandfather, here is a picture that I traced. Here, some of my poems. Grandfather, would you like to hear a song? It is in Japanese, but I hope you don’t mind. I hope you don’t mind.

「からす なぜ鳴くの…」

You become a crow, watching. Touch the window. I’m on the other side.

The tide is waiting, stones falling.

Grandfather, we are losing time.

“Little One,” you say. “Do not cry. I am free.”

How does freedom taste in Sài Gòn? My eyes are ground to fine, black powder, and my bones, my bones, they kindle the flame.