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Lesson

My mother, after mistaking the rat poison
for who-knows-what, has to have her stomach filled
with charcoal. I’m always surprised how efficiently
regret can build a machine, a geared thing
charging through the narrow halls of your memory​—
Asian men ain’t shit​, her voice a loose cork
Đàn ông của mìn không tốt ​& I think about my father, his temper
how she blames him for everything​—​đi đi, đi đi.
Leave. All you do is leave.​ For years we sat in silence
while she prayed & lit candles; asked ancestors to free me
from disease; again, blamed my father, that he taught me nothing
but desire & the desire to kill her—but still, I am surprised
when she turns to me & says, in a language I do not remember
being this soft​, Because your lover is white, you are forgiven​.
If I’m anything, I’m a boy inside his mother’s body
shoveling coal into a screaming red engine.

 

 

 

 

Pig

You were once & perhaps continue to be

the myth you tell to scare yourself

into loneliness. Copper totem rusting blue

in your throat. Once, a man paid

to watch you eat. There are countless ways

to justify company. Hunger, overdue balance, whatever.

Cartoon savage licking the throne clean.

& isn’t that what you always wanted?

To be filled & emptied? To bite the hand

that feeds you? Even if the hand wants to be bitten?

& is that defiance? Standing naked

at a dinner table while oil drips

from your chin, wanting the man

to touch you, but he won’t. & you want

to be the kind of person who doesn’t need

to feel beautiful, but you are. You are

predictable in your longing. Grotesque muse

spinning marrow into lace. Spit bride

glistening beneath a chandelier

stunning, even just for a moment.

 

Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow, a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Magazine, Guernica, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. His second collection of poetry, Not Here, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in spring of 2018. He lives in Minneapolis.

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