BREAK YOUR FACE by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (Mooks)

Do you feel like traveling? Well, this Sunday Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay will take you on a trip into glimpses of her country and culture in her poem BREAK YOUR FACE. I wish I could pick that dragon fruit at the end of her poem.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer. Our current guest editor is Hedy Tripp.

Hedy Tripp is this October’s guest editor. Hedy was born and educated in Singapore. A Saint Cloud elder with the Minnesota Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) and retired professor/lecturer, she came to her identity as a poet late in life, she says, “Because I never had time, earlier, to say, ‘I am a poet.’” For the past year, a Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB) Artist Career Development grant has allowed Hedy to intentionally immerse herself in what it IS to be a poet, to understand what lyrical poetry is, and to create Black-Indigenous-People-Of-Color (BIPOC) poetry by studying with BIPOC poets, especially Southeast Asian poets. Read more about Hedy and her work as a poet here.

Lyricality guest editor Hedy Tripp has chosen BREAK YOUR FACE by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (Mooks).

Hedy Tripp says this about BREAK YOUR FACE:

This poem was commissioned by Pollen and republished here with their permission.  The original piece can be found here with vibrant colors that reflect Mooks’ poetry genius as a Lao-American woman poet.  She subtly brings glowing images of her homeland – the naga, the mudpuppies, the buffalo’s butt and the dragon fruit.  I have been incredibly fortunate to have Mooks as my poet mentor this past year through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board with funding from the McKnight Foundation.

by Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (Mooks)

It is inevitable.
Sometimes we break  
Like teeth and promises   
Bones and hearts.   
Branch and ground.
Chaos and code.
Habits and faith.

Sometimes we break open
like pods and doors
dawn and silence. 

Sometimes we break apart
sometimes we break down. 

We are just pieces getting ready to 
Disassemble ourselves into a fire.    

The future won’t have us in it. 

If my ancestors taught me anything
It is that fire creates new life
An affirmation to let go,
To make way for something else to shape, to take
on something that we have not felt before.

Maybe a new sound or one that you 
have always craved for like,

Sunrays stroking your skin.

Maybe a new song.
Maybe a new feeling
or a different way to understand
what we have held once before
only now, 
its heavy is new,
its angles indent differently on our palm,
its colors 
its smell, a little bit familiar and reminds us 
of home. 
Home has a simple recipe.
Some call for more laughing parents than canned meat,
Some call for cups and cups of giggling grandfathers in bouncy castles
Dashes of hand-holding 
Peeled Korean drama marathons
Handfuls of lullabies once forgotten 
And bowls of cut fruit, spilling over, handed to you with luscious words like, 
I’m sorry
or sweet juicy ones like,
I love you. 

But sometimes the ingredients are hard to come by, 
and you’ll have to go look. 

Float to the surface of your first memory
When you were in water
Scraping scales with the naga
It left lines on your torso
to keep your secrets
to remember your purpose after you’ve sprouted feet. 

Listen for chocolate honeycomb.   
Sweet buzzing that swarms across your chest
And warms your belly.   
And lights up fauna and flora
transplanted here, from your motherland. 

Be the water they’ll need to survive in this strange soil. 

If your well becomes dry, I invite you 
to timewalk with me 
to that moment when first you laughed. 
The unnecessary amount of time you took to consider 
how many butts a buffalo might have
(One is not the right answer.)

Come and timewalk with me
To contemplate how many oceans live inside the heart. 

Every time I break, I trace the root 
of my thumb    
Fly around with mudpuppies  
Shuck out of my water body 

And dance forward into myself. 

When you reach the edge of the sea  
Or hunger at the cusp of a vision, 
Let a dragon fruit sing you home. 


Saymoukda’s bio:

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (Mooks) is a Lao writer, poet, and playwright. A 2019 recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual…in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.” Her awards include grants/fellowships from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Bush Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, MAP Fund, Playwrights’ Center, Forecast Public Art, MRAC, MSAB, and others. Saymoukda is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Theater Mu, a McKnight Foundation Fellow in Community-Engaged Practice Art, and a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in playwriting. Find her at 


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