No matter how hard I try to deny a part of me or tell myself I am more American, I cannot ignore my roots in Laos. I was putting together an icebreaker activity for work and was inspired to write this poem. It’s something I just wrote in 20 minutes–rough, rough, rough draft. Plus, every year around Lao Pimai, I always get a burst of Lao pride. -DANNY
I Am From Laos
I am from water buffaloes,
from muddy rice fields and sun-burned backs.
I am from the wooden huts, stilted and dusty.
I am from a million elephants, ten thousand rice fields,
from twelve powerful lords and their slaves.
I am from prehistoric stone jars that once stored rice wine for giants.
I am from more than sixty ethnic groups,
from the highlands, midlands, and lowlands.
I am from dok champa, the flower from my father’s garden,
whose sweet scent I savor.
I am from shaved heads and orange robes,
from Three Noble Disciplines, Four Noble Truths, and Five Precepts.
I am from the Mekong River, lively and strong.
I am from sticky rice, papaya salad, beef jerky,
from ant egg soup and fermented fish sauce.
I am from the boat festival, rocket festival, and harvest festival.
I am from the alms that I give to each baht,
from the belief that what I give I shall receive in return.
I am from the boun, merit-making ceremonies and the baci,
whose strings I wear around my wrists.
I am from Laos.