Tears of Quang Tri by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

AFTER THE LAST American soldiers

had left Vietnam

and grass had grown

scars onto bomb craters,

I took some foreign friends to Quảng Trị,

once a fierce battlefield.


I was too young for the war

to crawl under my skin

so when I sat with my friends

at a roadside café, sipping tea,

enjoying the now-green landscape,

I didn’t know how to react

when a starkly naked

woman rushed towards us, howling.




Read this poem in full in Let me Tell You a Story and hear Que Mai’s own narration by scanning a QR code on the page. Available from Lulu and Amazon.

Nguyen Phan Que Mai delivered the International Women’s Day poem at the 2016 UN event.

Let Me Tell You a Story: Nguyen Phan Que Mai

Nguyen Phan Que Mai (call her Que Mai) is a Vietnamese poet and writer, the bulk of whose work addresses a poorly explored past – that of the impact of the Vietnamese war on its survivors, often through the eyes of women and their families. Here, she reads in English which is not her favoured language, (and when you hear her deliver her work in Vietnamese with all its bells and chimes of nuance you instantly know why) and reaches deep to lift our comparatively dull tones with a breath that floats her words into our shared air. Que Mai is the author of The Secret of Hoa Sen which I reviewed elsewhere, and this year performed her poem for International Women’s Day at a United Nations event.

author image Nguyen Phan Que Mai