Mien by Bryant Phan

We are nomads,

The unknown bastard children of Asia

We don't have a motherland

So speaking Mien is our only resemblance to our roots

This is the closest thing we have to home


In 1993

I was born carrying the language of a homeless nation

Was the only thing my father had to remind him of self-identity  


When I was 5,

We were evicted from our first home in the United States

I asked my father

Why are we running?


He tells me this isn't the first time we ran away from a place we tried to love

We've been running our whole life

Calling more places home

Than we can count calluses on both hands



January 1978,

He fled south with his family from Nam Keng, Laos to Bangkok, Thailand

Said that these were the longest nights he ever spent away from home 

Watched gunpowder and bullets enter in the sky and explode like an orchestra of drums

Seen his people come crashing down like comets

He wished for survival on these falling stars



Thailand held my people as refugees

Wanted to disassociate themselves with our burdens

They prefixed our last names to make sure we couldn't hide our homelessness 

Our surnames were no longer

Chao, Lee, Chin, Phan

But Saechao, Saelee, Saechin, Saephan

We were just said to be disastrous



The United Nations shipped my father to the Oakland

America is our newest home

But this isn't our second or third


We are so tired of trying to find a place to live

First we were outcasted from the mountains China

Dumped from the fields of Vietnam

Ran away from the villages of Laos

Exported out of the refugee camps in Thailand

We are tired of feeling unwanted

We even peeled the self-identity off our skin and tongue


Told ourselves,

It's easy to forget a language

We choose not to speak

Assimilation was our survival technique

And English was our new survival song

We just wanted to live

So we called whatever place we could home


When I was born

My father removed "Sae" from my last name


We have no written past
But I am a writer
This is my attempt in reviving my legacy
I will have my say in my history

We are forced to put ourselves through a self-inflicted Holocaust to be accepted

But we've learned that we can't love a country that wants to change us as much as we want to change it


You taught my father that he is unimportant like a farm animal trapped in a cage


You anglicized our crowns

Made them into halos and neck-laces so we could angelically hang ourselves whenever we wanted to feel graceful in your heaven

You called this my freedom


But after years of running in the fog,

We learned that the beauty of the wind sit in our lungs like homes

Learned that our freedom is in the Ga' Soy and Liang Fen we cook

The "Lang Xing", "Yie Hnamv Meih" that exchange in our everyday conversation


We keep songbirds in our lungs so when we speak in our natural tongue,

We sing melodic whirlwind

This is our national anthem

But we don't have our own country

So our language is the closest thing we have to a home

Watch Brave New Voices

  1. NOW & GOAlways Available