For ten days, no matter where or how,
I scooped up phrases from the languages flowing past,
Khmer, Vietnamese and Lao,
Since time surges relentlessly forward, I had to learn fast!
In Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Ha Long Bay
I often asked, “What’s this called?”
Cái này gọi là gì? or “How do you do?”
Bạn làm thế nào?
plus various other phrases I was learning to say.
In Luang Prabang, next it was Lao.
I again asked, “What’s this called?”
Singni oenva jang? or I said this too:
“I’ve been learning Lao for two days”—
khaphachao daihianhu phasalav song mu.
There is so much to learn, but I press on, anyhow.
Khmer was a real challenge, but I didn’t let up.
I say, “I’ve been learning Khmer for three days”
khnhom ban rien pheasaea khmer ban bei thngai.
Even if my spelling is awry, and grammar deficient,
Pronunciation defective, my sense of fun isn’t.
It was a joy to make friends, to see through new eyes,
To drink in these new languages, then to refill the cup.
November 21, 2017