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"Con của Mẹ" (Daughter of Yours) a Poem by An Bùi

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

We got off the phone and neither of us said, “Goodbye.”

No “Chào con,” no “Chào Mẹ”

Just fuming silence and tears

And me left wondering:

Who cut the cord first?

There was once a time when you and I were bound

by the umbilical cord of destiny and all I needed was you.

You coaxed me in nursery rhymes and fed me with food I loved.

I didn’t have to walk on eggshells—

I just had to be a growing egg.

Your love had no cost other than that I existed

and that was enough.

Mẹ, I don’t remember that time as much.

What I do remember is the first time you said

I was not “con của Mẹ” and it was in front

of a stranger in our own house. I had just dyed my hair blonde

without your permission and you were on a mission

to make sure your words stung.

If just the color of my hair could change your relationship

to me—a relationship I thought was supposed to stand

the test of time— no wonder I was scared to tell you

when the genders of my love changed too.

That night, I learned what betrayal feels like.

I felt you snip at our cord.

This cord had kept me floating in your womb for 9 months,

but suddenly, I was a fish drowning in water. Like a goldfish

trying to breathe when the air is running out of the plastic bag.

Because on at least one day each year I watched everyone

proclaim their mom as their best friend and ride or die,

but for whatever reason,

you weren’t mine.

I thought something must be wrong with me.

Must not be trying hard enough to trust you,

not trying hard enough to breathe in this suffocating space.

I must be broken

because we are broken.

And our relationship broke again each time you

cut our cord with your vicious words and refused

to apologize. You pretended that you never hurt me

or told me you hurt me out of love.

You taught me that love is abusive.

Love is debt and quiet pain and never feeling enough.

Love is crying myself to sleep because I can never be

the dream daughter you want.

Love is not me. I am not love.

I am not worth love.

But I know all this to be false.

Mẹ, this is not what love is.

Your love is a reflection of how you fail to love yourself.

Of how Bà Ngoại failed to love you the way you deserve.

Maybe how her mom failed to love her too.

I know you’ve been through a lot.

I know your trauma is valid.

And finally I know too that your trauma

cannot justify the trauma you inflict on me.

This is something I can’t carry for you anymore,

and I won’t. I’m letting go of our cord

that we both cut off a long time ago. I’m ending this cycle

of pain that drains us without ever any gain because

Mẹ, I deserve healing.

And you deserve healing too.

So when you’re ready to stop pushing the red

buttons that end our conversations and

start mending our relationship by healing yourself,

I will swipe that green icon to the right.

And maybe when that time comes, I will say,

“Chào Mẹ,” you will say “Chào Con,”

and this time it will mean “Hello”.

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A writer, community organizer, and facilitator who loves to embrace the complexities of her emotions through laughing and crying. Through her writing, she explores the lens of daughterhood, living in San José as a queer Việt artist, and navigating the grief of losing her younger brother. Social justice and spirituality are the pillars that guide and inform her work. She dreams about a world where care exists on a structural, community, and individual level. Her work has been featured on Autostraddle, QTViệt Cafe, and more.

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