Mai Chao

Mai Chao, in her poem “Two Rivers,” serenades the Mississippi and the Mekong. Both rivers have been extant to joys and hardships. One is the past, the other is the present.


Location: Riverside Park (by Riverside Eagle)

Hello, this is Mai Chao reading “Two Rivers,” the honorable mention poem in the 2017 Hear, Here Poetry Contest. This poem was inspired by true events that contrasted my experience in America with my mother’s experience from Laos. I am forever grateful to my brave mother, Chia Vue, who brought her family to Wisconsin after escaping the Vietnam War.

Two Rivers

Mississippi, oh, Mississippi,
timeless beauty,
you have carried countless stories
without judgement.
Your serene wisdom
inspires curiosity in young and old.
I sit before you as he asks for my hand,
how can I not accept such a kind-hearted man to be mine?
When his West melts into my East,
we become stronger as one.
Mississippi, oh, Mississippi,
you have done it again,
witnessing a new history
with prudence.
Watching your heartbeat,
in front of
“A Simpler Time”
overlooking the Julia Belle Swain,
I think of Mother.

Back then,
she once sat before the Mekong,
10,000 miles away.
Death asking for her hand,
how can she accept to go at such a young age?
When escaping certain death becomes a second chance,
she grows stronger with others.
Mekong, oh, Mekong,
you have done it again,
witnessing a new history
With prudence.
Watching your heartbeat,
in front of
overlooking “The Land of Smiles.”
She thinks of her future.

Two daughters
two rivers.
Each with hopes and dreams,
like the moon and the sun
intertwining as one.
Mekong, oh, Mekong.
Mississippi, oh, Mississippi.
Two daughters
standing before the shores of the past,
the crossroads of the present
by two rivers.