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Voices and Verses

National Poetry Month: “Thịt Kho” By Joshua Nguyen

The Houston poet reads a poem inspired by his favorite Vietnamese dish.


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Poet Joshua Nguyen

In this first installment of the 2018 edition of Voices and Verses, we meet poet Joshua Nguyen. In this sound portrait, he talks about his love of poetry, food, and puns, and he reads his poem, "Thịt Kho."

Joshua Nguyen is a Kundiman Fellow, collegiate national poetry champion, and a native Houstonian. He has been published in The Offing, The Acentos Review, FreezeRay Poetry, Button Poetry, The Texas Review, and Birds Thumb. In 2015, he was part of the Word Around Town Poetry Tour (WAT) in Houston. A tapioca connoisseur and poker aficionado, he is currently an MFA candidate at The University of Mississippi.


Thịt Kho

my mother doesn't write recipes,
she just knows.

braised pork and eggs,
rice cleaned thoroughly.

miles away, i forget to peel the eggs
the night before.

miles away, i forget to buy the special
brand of coconut juice.

miles away, my mother is laughing
once i swallow my pride and call.

it'll never be quite the same she says,
just try your best, and finish your food.

when you buy fish sauce,
you must remember to wrap it in newspaper.

if the bottle breaks in the car,
the stench will haunt you long after the car is compacted.

i am blessed to have a mother who
talks about death, who knows her mortality.

i imagine my mother passing,
i know she won't have enough grandchildren.

i will have added too much pepper,
not enough oyster sauce.

it's called simmering for a reason,
the house smells of coconut.

our recipes will never be quite the same,
but we both wear gloves to peel eggs.

when i cook for my mother,
i know she will lie.


This poem is reprinted with permission by the author.

Music used: Sequence for Minor White (excerpt) by Kyle Sanna and Qi: Garden (excerpt) by Evan Ziporyn from Brooklyn Rider: Spontaneous Symbols

To learn more about this series, go here.

Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Senior Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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