Fish Sauce by Anhthao Bui

Fish Sauce by Anhthao Bui
Fish Sauce is realistic fiction, and Anhthao’s second anthology collection.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I was an English major at San Jose State University. I love reading and writing. However, as an ESL student, I struggled with some English courses. I did not talk much in the classroom and I made some English grammartical errors. Thus, I was confused and frustrated about my ability. Professor Mitchell understood and encouraged me to pursue my dream. Once, when professor Mitchell came to the classroom, she said, “Class, we are proud to have a famous poet in our class.”
Theresa was curious, “Really? Who is he or she?”
Students were surprised, “Who? May we know the poet’s name?”
Professor Mitchell smiled and said, “Anhthao Bui is her name. Her poetry is chosen to publish in the anthology,'The Best Poems and Poets of 2003.' She also gets the Diversity Award of the Humanity Department.”
Students looked at me and yelled, “Wow, no wonder! Are you a poet, Anhthao?"
Angela, my best friend, nodded, “Yep, she is. Her poetry is beautiful. I read her poetry when I took the English 132, the Creative Writing Course.”
Professor Mitchell suggested, “Anhthao, could you share with us your poetry?”
I was shy. My face turned red. With a soft and trembling voice, I told her, “Yes, Professor. I would like to share with you the poem, “Haikus I”
I stood up and tried to read loudly and slowly, “Haikus I”
Among foreigners
Differ from languages, cultures
I'm blind, deaf, and dumb

Melancholy tears
Fall on Shakespeare's masterpieces
Cloud men's loneliness

Anguish eats my flesh
Solitude swallows my blood
Fear hacks me to death

I am a phoenix
Death, rebirth, a life cycle
Crawl on a new path

When I finished the poem, class paused a few seconds, and then students burst into applause and praise.
“Wow, Anhthao!”
“So powerful!”
“So unique!”
“You’re talented, Anhthao."

Professor Mitchell told me, “ Anhthao, tell us about your poetry. Why did you write it?”
I was touched. My eyes were wet. I murmured, “Thank you so much for your praise. One early morning, when I got up, I saw white spots tears on the Shakespeare’s black book cover, so I wrote the poem to describe my emotion and my depression. I like haiku because of its simplicity. However, a haiku is not enough to convey a full message, which I want to express, so I tie some haiku into a bunch of poetry and call it “haikus.” My haikus is different from the traditional haiku. Each traditional haiku becomes a stanza in the haikus.
Bobby uttered, “Wow! Anhthao, you are creative.”
Professor Mitchell told us, “ Anhthao was an ESL student. She has lived in America for six years. She loves literature and wishes to be a Vietnamese-American writer. She often makes grammartical errors when she writes, but I like her ideas. Her thoughts are deep. She is very quiet in class. I want you to help her.”
Lina showed her admiration, “You’re remarkable, Anhthao. English literature is very difficult.”
Jo Ann confessed, “I cannot write beautiful poetry like yours.”
Pamela added, “Poetry is your gift, Anhthao.”
Prof. Mitchell agreed with Pamela, “Indeed, she is! Don’t give up, Anhthao. You only have three more classes. Your writing is fine. We understand you.”
Angela offered, “I volunteer to help Anhthao correct her English grammartical errors.”
I appreciated Angela, “Thank you, Angela.”
I asked, “May I read one more poem?”
Prof. Mitchell agreed, “It’s fine, Anhthao.”
I read, “ In Debt
I owe my father a sperm
I owe my mother an egg
I owe my country a yellow skin
I owe America my freedom
I owe my professors
My knowledge
What did I do for the debt?
What should I do?
What should I do?
Never enough.

Cesar told me, “I love your poetry, Anhthao.”
Richard commended, “You did many things. You are successful. You almost receive your Bachelor’s degree.”
Kyle added, “You got many accomplishments.”
I told them, “ I promise not to give up my dream and will apply the English Master’s Program. I know I will cope with difficulties and hardships. However, I do not have the right to give up because of your trust and your care for me, my dear professor and friends.”
Prof. Mitchell encouraged me, “You will be successful, Anhthao.”

SJSU, Spring 2003