She was a quiet beauty

Her voice soft like the shine of her hair

Her dark eyes would shyly

Peer through her staggered fringe

She would smile


I loved her hair, so straight and thick

Upside down steps

Lining her face

To her fringe

It was “Cure” cool back then…and I could but dream


She was only 15

Working nights, school during the day

Her parents could not yet speak English

So with her older sister, she worked

For the family


I remember her laugh

Light and cheeky

She was comfortable

Felt included… part of the gang

And she was



We shared taxis home

And we would wait until she was safely in the lift

She was scared to walk around the flats at night

I couldn’t blame her

They were like gargantuan cement robots

Dark man made monsters

Hitting the night sky

A strange new world

For a girl who came from a farming village

In Vietnam

Yet she was thankful…

“Soldiers came into the village” she said

“and we ran…they shot my grandmother, she was killed.”



It hit…

Her quiet voice, whispering the violence

She’d witnessed


I think of her today

Knowing wherever she is…she’s still grateful

Still working hard…and I’ll bet successful

Her smile now radiant with confidence

For a shy girl who came here by boat


And I feel happy for her

Yet ashamed…as our country cries “turn back the boats”

A political false sincerity

“we are concerned for lives lost on the trip”

They say…and


It’s been suggested we should no longer sing our national anthem

“For those who’ve come across the seas

We’ve boundless plains to share;

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.”



Yet today I sit and remember…

And I could tell you about…Winston

How he got aboard a boat

And did not know where his family was…

If they were safe… if they got out…

But that’s another story…


And here I am still cuddly safe

In my warm cocoon with my family

Never having known such fear

Hoping we can still sing our anthem

And know… in our hearts… it is true



For dverse poets, Kelvin asks us to write about our Asian experience, this is about a lovely girl I once knew some years ago…


13 thoughts on “Helen

  1. I feel sad for those people who came through the boat, escaping from lands where terror and violence reign ~ I could not imagine escaping and living after seeing violence and blood spilled on the streets ~ May our hearts be always open to them ~ Thanks so much for the personal share ~

  2. I have heard stories as well, of people in families who got on different boats and never knew if the rest of their family was safe or not. You are right, they are ambitious people. I see that here as well. We have no idea what some of them (or their parents) went through. I also appreciated the personal share & your deep feelings on the subject.

  3. dang…powerful story she has making for a powerful verse…to come from the village…to have gramma shot…its heart breaking stuff….its a shock to our senses at the life we live and struggles we have…i am glad she was a part of your group and found acceptance…

  4. Lots of sad, sad stories from that time. I have a friend who got separated from her mother. Tragic.

    This reads well, like the homage that it is in essence. Well done.

  5. we can only imagine what they’re going through…seeing part of their family shot, village destroyed and then leave on a small boat, many of them drown on the way…i love how you describe her…so feel your heart in this..

  6. Such a story, here. I received a number of Vietnam refugees back in ’75 or whatever year it was. The care facility I worked at hired a doctor…as a gardener. It broke my heart. The who idea of displacement pains me so much.

  7. Wow! This is so real and so well told, Dianne. I’ve been reading a lot about Vietnam lately, and this is a part of the history that often goes unnoticed and is seldom spoken of. Excellent write!

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