Iced Coffee

Dad's morning ritual
When we were kids, waking up to the smell of Ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) was as reliable as the sunrise. It was a part of dad’s morning ritual before work. I was mesmerized by the metal filter atop the glass, squeezing out droplets of coffee, until a deep, dark layer of espresso formed above the condensed milk. Dad would stir it up with ice and let me have a taste. Wow, that stuff was strong! Rich espresso flavor combined with sweet condensed milk, plus ice? Come on! Prepare to be wide awake!
When I lived in Vietnam after college, I would head out at dawn for iced coffee sold along the street.

Comic/recipe: Nguyen Khoi Nguyen

I have written so many poems about Dad. He wasn’t demonstrative in his love like T.V. dads are, but there were little ways—such sweet ways—he’d show me he loved me.
He drank coffee every morning. By the time I got up, Dad had already finished drinking because he was an early riser. But he knew I loved the bitter coffee mixed with the treacly condensed milk, so he saved me the best part, the super thick leftovers. He never had to tell me he loved me, I could taste it every morning.

Honey from Certain Blossoms

Even when he was in a rush, there was his duty to her:
leaving for her the last sip of coffee in his cup.

He taught her how to suck honey
from certain blossoms that no one ever paid attention to.

He taught her to drink the last bit of everything,
to disturb the stillness of everything.

This is her duty to him: to know where to find the honey.
During years of living off sweetness, he passed it on,

this habit energy, what makes stillness unbearable,
passed on as the need to drink.

-Thu Nguyen
Below is Thu's poem set to music and performed by Nguyen's jazz trio: Superior Cling.

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