Vietnamese-American poet Ocean Vuong remembers the start of his immigrant experience, when on his first night in America he squeezed into a tiny, unfurnished Connecticut apartment with six relatives and a bucket of "old man chicken."
"We had KFC, which my family still calls to this day 'old man chicken' because of Col. Sanders' face on the buckets," Vuong says. "It was very cold, the snow was starting and you could hear it crackling on the tenement windows, and we were dipping into this seemingly miraculous bucket of chicken and drinking this tea that we brought with us, and we started to tell stories."
Those stories Vuong's family shared with the then-toddler are woven into his new collection of poems, "Night Sky with Exit Wounds." The poetry looks backward and forward to life in Vietnam and America, avoiding nostalgia but capturing the lasting impact of a war that still echoes through the generations.
This is one of his poems, "Aubade with Burning City":
South Vietnam, April 29, 1975: Armed Forces Radio played Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” as a code to begin Operation Frequent Wind, the ultimate evacuation of American civilians and Vietnamese refugees by helicopter during the fall of Saigon.
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