Left everything. Left Laos in ’78.
Followed a husband following Vang Pao.
Moves briskly; brings a customer his pho;
clears a table; buses a gummy plate;
bustles back to the register to grin
and greet me. Left the mountains. Kept the words.
Makes do without the tenses of her verbs.
Survived the camps in Thailand. Knows it’s been
some weeks since I’ve been here. The framed paj ntaub
embroideries behind her hold their peace
forever. Now she brushes from her face
thin strands of gray and bows her tiny bow,
offering me my take-out almond ding.
What compensates for leaving everything?