American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children's Paintings

The Speak Peace traveling exhibit features 34 paintings by Vietnamese children on peace and war, currently on loan from the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Each painting is accompanied by one or more poems written by American children, veterans, and established poets.

The traveling exhibit debuted in Kent, Ohio, in September 2010 and will continue to tour nationally through September 2013. To bring the Speak Peace traveling exhibit or programs to your community, contact Nicole Robinson, Wick Poetry Center Outreach Coordinator.


together protect peace by Ta Thank Khue, age 15

reverse folds

My son teaches me to fold a paper crane,
crease here, undo...How long
to wait for peace, for grief's slow work to mold 
into a shape the palm can hold, as delicate
as wings? My son folds by memory.
I made five today, he says, have to be patient
He bends the white sheet back, body in pain
against the sway of history:
you get to choose which of these stalks 
to make into the head. I touch the left one.
My son breathes into the belly
of the crane, a gust of life, a homecoming. 

Heidi Hart  Heidi Hart is a Quaker and writer with a strong interest in peace and social concerns. She received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2000 and currently teaches creative writing at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. She is the author of the memoir Grace Notes: The Waking of a Woman’s Voice and the four-poet collection Edge by Edge.


small hands

Together Protect Peace: four hands hover
around an origami crane.  But you don’t even know
how to hold onto it. You sift flour into metal cups,
measure water and salt and yeast, then press
palms deep into the yielding dough and feel
peace begin to rise in the chest, the heart
warm and leavened. In the evening you listen
to the whispered nightbreaths of your children,
as if they are holy chants in a foreign tongue
you don’t need to translate. You stroke your daughter’s
tiny hand as she sleeps and wonder, how durable
is peace? And which is more fragile, the paper bird
or the small hands that fold it into being. 


—Scott Parsons  Scott Parsons has taught college and high school English for sixteen years, the last thirteen at Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna, Ohio. He is a former editor of Ohio Teachers Write and last year had an article published in English Journal.


a wish for peace by Nguyen Le Ai Nu, age 13

i want to be

I want to be your crayon
so I can sketch the doves
that fly above your head.

I want to be your fabric
so I can stitch
symbols of peace.

I want to be your pastel
to smudge and smear
the tree that shades you.

I want to be your sun
so I can rise
and give you new hope.

I want to be your star
to shine and bring
a wish for life.

I want to be your friend
so I can guide youto the path of joy.
I want to be your bird
so I can takeaway your sadness.

I want to be the clouds
that float across the sky
bringing love from other lands.

Shreya Basu    Shreya Basu wrote this poem when she was in fourth grade at Holden Elementary in Kent, Ohio. She lives with her parents and younger brother. Her favorite book is The Amber Spyglass, and she enjoys science, reading, writing, pizza, and the color pink. Basu hopes to be a writer when she grows up.


children's wishes by Truong Moc Kim Giao, age 5

to return future's horizon to its true colors

Peace can be as simple
and difficult as this—

children instinctively know
to bring balloons and a vase

of blooming flowers
to erase the brown/gray air

of bombs and hate. 
Adults must relearn,

remember from the deep
place they’ve forgotten or buried,

to meditate on the perfection
of balloons and blossoms until

they feel hope streak the sky
like a blue crayon unleashed.

Jari Thymian   Jari Thymian’s poetry has appeared in Margie Review,Broadsided PressSimply HaikuEkphrasisThe Christian Science MonitorMelusineVerse Wisconsin, and Chicken Pinata. Her chapbook, The Meaning of Barns (Finishing Line Press, 2007), was inspired by a barn raising at Common Harvest Farm near Osceola, Wisconsin.


if i were the sun

If I were the sun
I would brighten up
the world on a rainy day.

I would float in thin air
and sit up there,
feeling as bright and beautiful
as I am. 
And when the day was done
I’d settle down to earth,
make myself orange and big,
and bring peace to all.

—Leslie Shimko  Leslie Shimko wrote this poem as a third grader in Kate Wally’s class at Seville Elementary school in Seville, Ohio. She enjoys writing poems and stories. Leslie was excited to respond to the painting Children’s Wishes, because she likes to picture herself as the sun and sky.


peace after war by Ly Nhgat Truong, age 14

all you see

My toes sink into this purple hill.
Drops of red fall from the sky
every time a plane flies over.
The city is burning,
even though you’re convinced tomorrow
morning will be accompanied by yawns.
All you see is ash.

Our soil is yellow.
The ground beneath my feet
is warmer than the sun.
Birds melt into the horizon.
Your silhouette is all I can remember.

Hand in hand, fingers tight around yours.
I want to know the feeling
of your palm pressed into mine.

—Emma Cherry   Emma Cherry attends Montessori High School at University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio. She was born in New York City and moved to Ohio when she was twelve years old. She enjoys all forms of art and music and aspires to be an author. After graduating high school she plans to attend Ohio Wesleyan University in the fall of 2011.


terrible war by Nguyen Pham Bao Tran, age 12

terrible war
The air fertilizes flames of terror.
Clouds inherit billowing smoke.
Bombshells rain over my land.
My home erupts into broken glass,
shattering my hardened heart.
The shadow of Grandpa’s carcass
melts into my tears.
The sound of his last breath
surrenders my knees.

—R. N.   R. N. attends Lurleen B. Wallace School at the Mt. Meigs juvenile detention facility in Mt. Meigs, Alabama, and is taking part in a program called Writing Our Stories, which is a partnership program between the Alabama Writers’ Forum and the Alabama Department of Youth Services.