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The Day I Learned to Speak My Grandmother’s Tongue

By Pacyinz Lyfuong

The day I learned to speak my grandmother’s tongue
An Eastern wind shifted the earth
While the western walls were whisked away…
And the mountains of Laos rose on the horizon,
Roaring with the sound of river dragons
Splashing rainbow tail waves
Across oceans of opium poppies
Just awakened from their slumber
By the baby chick with no feathers
Hiding under the house board floor
Waiting to teach the next generation
That to live means to save the most vulnerable

The day I learned to speak my grandmother’s tongue
I tied my own tongue upon the eight tones
Of the Hmong language
Stumbling upon words like a baby, like it should be
Restoring back the balance between the ages
As I freed my grandmother’s voice
To rise clearly, to rise wisely
Mighty like the elders’ powers should be

And my fears faded away, like the black spots on her skin
Revealed for their true glory, as battle scars
From a life lived completely
And I found the ultimate truth
That I will not escape my nature
That I am a rock from the old mountain
A strong Hmong woman
Carved from another strong Hmong woman




Listen as Pacyinz Lyfuong reads
"The Day I Learned to Speak My Grandmother's Tongue."

Added: Tuesday, May 21, 2019  /  Used with permission.
Pacyinz Lyfuong

Pacyinz Lyfoung is a French-born, Minnesota-grown, Hmong/Asian American woman poet. She started writing poetry after the passing of her grandmother, as she wished to remember and document for future generations. She has been taking poetry classes whenever she could, sometimes on a competitive basis. Her writing experiences consist of: Asian Pacific Islander Inroads for Emerging Writers at The Loft Literary Center (Minneapolis, MN), VONA (Regional in MN in 2017, Summer 2017 Poetry Residency, and Summer 2018 Prose Residency), and Jenny McKean Moore Community Poetry Class in 2018. When in Minnesota, she published poetry in the Paj Ntaub Voice: Voices of the Hmong magazine, the Asian American Renaissance Journal, the Bamboo Among the Oaks Anthology of Hmong Writing, and To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present. Outside of Minnesota, she was published in The Journal of Southeast Asian Education & Advancement, and will be published in Stonecoast Review in summer 2019. She was a volunteer at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016 and hosted one panel on Hmong American Poetry as Memoir. She enjoys poetry workshop-ping with Split This Rock on Wednesdays.

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