Mischief in the Fire


abstract art blur bokeh

Language is my orchestra

sometimes a lullaby

Emotion is the music

the Poet’s heart lives by


In the silence of my dreams

words go dancing through

An image just to beautiful

all logic out of view


An artist lives within me

a way of beating all the odds

The thorn on the rose bush

pricks discovery once again


All children start out poets

I just cannot let that go

 Stir the mischief in the fire

and let enchantment flow

Viet Nam…the following is based on a true story…(all names changed except for Iris)

shallow focus photography of woman in pink dress

In the water off the coast of Saigon…what is now called Ho Chi Minh City there was a young girl who was nine years old and her cousin Mae was 12. I am Iris. The young girl is my Mother and this is our story…


Sing Na Li is my mother. Her American name is Naomi Li. She is forty-nine years old. She owns two nail salons and has worked seven days a week since I can remember. We live in a nice house with four bedrooms and two and a half baths. My mother said this could never be imagined in Viet Nam. She has never been home again. She has never seen her Mother and Father since that day when her father handed her over the bow of a boat with her cousin to a woman from our village area. Grandfather had only enough money to get one of us out. As his only child he chose my Mother. She has made a good life she says with no regrets. She always said, “ Iris, you must not look back. You must always look forward. You must always be brave.”
I am not as brave as my Mother. I have an easy life. I want to be brave. I want to be like my Mother. I just graduated from a well-known University in Texas. I am an engineer. Naomi is very proud of me…
In the spring of 1975 the People’s Army of Vietnam were coming. They were sighted in the highlands of north of Saigon…Grandfather told my mother that she must go. He said, “I will die here in my body but you will take my dreams and my heart with you. You will go to America and you will give me many grandsons and granddaughters. I will not let you suffer in the way that is coming.”
Naomi did not understand everything Father said to her but she knew that she must obey. Her Mother never cried and she spoke very little. There was always a sadness in her deep set almond shaped eyes. Mother’s eyes spoke to me. They said women must be the strongest.
Soldiers with guns were everywhere. I was just a little girl but I had only known war. I could not tell who were the friendly soldiers and who were the enemy. I remember seeing an American soldier once and upon his helmet he had written “Welcome to hell.” I remember another sign written across the big building with the American flag and someone had written on it in my own language, “The gates of mercy have closed.”
I did not understand these words. My grandmother, who was very old, told my mother, “Do not be afraid my dear little one. You will be strong. You will live for all of us. They cannot hurt us if you live and that is what Mercy is…to live.”
The end came very quickly after years of shelling, starving, and never sleeping well. I had never  known a time in my life when there was not war. We lived in an area of the city that had not been bombed but there was no electricity or running water. Many people were sick and many people died.
On April 28th, 1975 I was put upon a big boat, which I now know was one of a South Vietnamese navy vessel. There were thirty or so of these vessels crammed into the Saigon River. My cousin and I were so scared. There were so many people crowding onto the shore…I have forgotten a lot of it. People were stepping over us to get on the boat. At some point a man picked me up and put me in a corner of the boat with my cousin and told us to hold on to the railing and do not let go. Two days later President Minh surrendered unconditionally. I know that this is what killed my Father even though he died in battle.
After many days, I don’t know how long, we arrived in Guam. We stood in long lines and were processed to enter the United States. We were checked by a doctor and put in another line. Long gone were the rice and fruit Mother had given me.
I felt excitement mingle with fear as only a nine year old could. I longed to see Father, Mother, and Grandmother but I feared returning to Saigon. After many days we were placed in a city of tents as there were many children. We played and were given food and cots to sleep on. After what seemed many days Grandmother’s niece whom I had never met came and picked us up. We flew on a big airplane to Texas. That was the beginning of my American life.
Many Americans died for me and many other Americans said that they lost the Vietnam war but as for me, my brothers and sisters and my Mother Sing Na Li they did not lose. They won. They won it for us. I am a Vietnamese American. I am Iris. I am brave. I am an example of Mercy.


seashore under blue sky photography


I walk by the gulf

                                the tide is out

the moon wanes half past blue


The salty brine

                            soothes my feet

and wildflowers thread the dunes


Jade green water

                               laps at the shore

my inner cathedral sings praise


I whisper to you

                                   with gratitude

for the gift of another day.

Not in this cage of flesh and bone…


sun over the cyclone fence

I heard there was a party 

not in this cage of flesh and bone

Since little or no magic’s here

I’m moving down the road


An invitation to the party

send me an inviting card

Just laughing in the Twilight

leaving earth won’t be so hard


I have visited the gutter

slept in a palace grand

I’m just a wandering woman

Shadowing the Promise Land


I was a lady lost in fiction

in love with a  liar’s moon

Now Truth is my addiction

time will be forgotten soon.



Midnight Hour

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue

Time is not a matter here

in the midnight hour

I sing to you my love song

though it be worn and tattered


I fell the deep wells of danger

of both your Joy and Light

To such will be the way of it

 beneath the looming night


Come endure the midnight hour

where language has no name

Yet Hope and Hardship mingle

 with your Faithfulness and Grace

All the tourists have gone away…

white decorative shells

All of the tourists have gone away

there are no more t-shirts for sale today

The rest of the locals are raising a toast

back to the quiet and the pull of the moon

No footprints in the sand, no hurrying to do


There is no other sky like October blue

the deep blue waves call out to you

My heart is captured by the lure of the Sea

That autumn wind still carries me

I want to walk on the beach in my old sweatshirt

just looking for shells and listen to the surf

All He Ever Got Right


light pattern abstract blur

Photo by MOHI SYED on Pexels.com

The silence seeped into the windows

like a room that has been shut up for some time

where a  fly hits the glass over and over

with the same result and rhyme


We use to dance to Brown Eyed Girl

and drink  Elderberry wine

I could swear she was an angel

when she said her heart was mine


A  man can mess up so many things

 still she stayed with me through the night

Now I make my final days with only her

for in the end she is all that I ever got right






The gifts that I have received as a nurse could fill a book…



The gifts that I have received as a nurse could fill a book…here is on of those precious golden nuggets that I carry with me…
“The truth is when people aren’t around I sleep a lot.” said the one hundred four-year old. Her Baltic sea blue eyes sparkle when she speaks. “You know I sleep to save up energy for these well-worn cells so I can enjoy it when I go out and see my family…children, grand children, great grand children, and even great great grandchildren…it is so much fun for me.”
“You know when you reach your fifties, sixties, and seventies you worry that you will get sick. If you live through those decades and don’t die from cancer or heart disease or stroke you feel young again even though you are old.”
“When you are in your thirties and forties you are robust and feel you have this short window to “Make a life” for yourself and your children, measuring success by land marks such as houses, cars, income, and education… Anyone below thirty is truly just a baby still…people don’t believe me because a twenty or thirty year old think they know everything and really they don’t.”
I sat down in the chair by her hospital bed and she smiled. She said, “What I see after living this long is everyone is so noisy and in a rush to reach somewhere beyond the life they have now. It is such a waste of the moment, of the joy intended for us. It is actually good NOT to know everything. Knowledge is no good anyway without character, without pain and disappointment.”
As she lay her head back on her pillow I notice the elegance in her posture and the way her hands lay so beautifully on her lap. “these hands she said have touched so much life and I am always reminded that life is so wonderful and tragic at the same time. I have seen war, slavery, and needless cruelty but I have also seen the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I have walked the beach and climbed the mountain. I have seen God there. I have heard babies cry and five minutes later laughing so purely and without malice. I have seen death and know that it doesn’t last nor it is the “end” of any part of me.”
As she closed her eyes she sighed, “Life is a wonder and a gift…God’s wisdom is NOT locked away from us. It is given to us everyday if we will listen and then receive it…don’t ever forget that.” I have not forgotten that sweet lady and her words…and her life spark still lives on in me…