VIETNAM WAR POETRY

Why I Sold My Daughter:
An Answer for the National Public Radio Reporter

                        Because I favored her.
                        Because she was the prettiest of our seven, but blind.
                        That she did not drown in a rice paddy before reaching her first blood flow
                        surprised my husband and me.
                        What man would have her?
                        What physical good beyond pleasuring?
                        The merchant who took her gave us a refrigerator,
                        and now our neighbors pay us to use it.
                        The merchant promised he'd keep her indoors;
                        she'd only need to talk with men; she'd never use her eyes.
                        Since then, he's purchased Tran's daughters too.
                        No, they see.
                        But Tran and her husband opened a club near the American base,
                        and needed the television he offered.
                        I sold my daughter because I favored her,
                        wanted to help her pay for her last life,
                        and must have done something in my last,
                        to make my sacrifice necessary.

~

"Sometime during the late 1990s, I was listening to a National Public Radio reporter interviewing a Vietnamese American teacher and peace worker who had spent a number of years teaching and writing in South Vietnam. At the time of this radio interview, she was completing a book about the Vietnam War, written from the perspective of several Vietnamese families, and in particular, women, and mothers of families. She pointed out that whereas Americans routinely refer to this conflict as "The Vietnam War," many Vietnamese see it as "The American War." She described in detail what the war did to families, how it orphaned children, separated spouses, created hunger, created a need for sexual trafficking. She spoke with compassion about how some parents resorted to selling their daughters, or the sexual services of their daughters, and how this wasn't something that they wanted to do. This started me thinking: I am a totally blind, well-educated, Caucasian woman.

Suppose, however, that luck of my DNA had placed me, still blind, in a rural South Vietnamese family with parents who loved me, but who had limited physical resources or access to services for blind people. And what about the overlay of cultural attitudes toward blindness and disability, toward life and the afterlife? I imagined myself as the Vietnamese mother of blind me, talking to that National Public Radio reporter. That is how the poem came to be."

by Contributing Poet:     Susan Glass   Copyright 2016
      ( First published in   VietnamWarPoetry.com   2016 )


Bio:   Susan Glass'  poetry has appeared in Snowy Egret, The San Jose Studies Journal, Range of Motion Anthology, The Broad River Review, Magnets and Ladders and elsewhere. A California resident with ties to western Massachusetts, she held a residency at the Cummington Community of the Arts in Massachusetts and received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. After teaching for many years at San Jose State University and West Valley Community College, she now edits the news magazine for the California Council of the Blind, Blind Californian, along with The Blind Teacher for the American Association of Blind Teachers. She and her husband John share their home with her guide dog, Zeus, who insures that all three remain irreverent, active, and loved.


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