Pacyinz Lyfoung
Pacyinz Lyfoung is a French-born and raised, Minnesota-grown, Hmong/Asian American woman poet, activist and professional. She recently moved to Madison, to work for the environment. She has been published in Paj Ntaub Voice: The Hmong Literary Journal, Asian American Renaissance journals; was a contributor to two anthologies, Bamboo Among the Oaks and To Sing Along: MN Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present; and is featured on the Asian American Poetry website.
andrew lundwall photo

The Day I Learned to Speak My Grandmother’s Tongue

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 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

•   •   •

Asian America

The country that haunts my life
I have never seen
Except at the elusive shadow
Of a river, running wild,
As wide was a whole generation,
As deep as a wound that can barely heal,
So what I love about Asian America
Is my river curving into one thread
Of the Asian American tapestry.

The country that is now my country,
Tears me apart between past and present,
Between community and mainstream society,
Between collective and individuality,
So what I love about Asian America
Is my river flowing boundless
For all of my feet
To stand onto all of my shores.

Sometimes, I am fierce, hard, challenging,
Ready to take up the fight,
Sometimes I am soft, tender, compromising,
Eager to give anything for peace.
So, what I love about Asian America
Is my river cradling everything that I am:
Each part of me and all the parts of me.