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bốn bạn bán bốn bàn bẩn, ha

i want to banish the shame/ write it in a book to be banned,/ take the banal, grow a banana/ tree of new knowing

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday
December 15, 2020

After Duy Doan

The title of the poem comes from a Vietnamese tongue twister: bốn bạn bán bốn bàn bẩn.

The tongue twister also appears as the epigraph of Duy Doan’s poem “Three Tongue Twisters” in his book We Play A Game (Yale University Press 2018)

if your ancestors took
over mine, if they can’t pro
nounce this, read no fur
ther, take the syllables out
your lips and don’t re
peat after me


you are banished you tried to
ban ban banish me
kicked me in the neck but I ban ban ban
ned you first, so ha

~*~ ~*~

i want to banish the shame
write it in a book to be banned,
take the banal, grow a banana
tree of new knowing, tie a ban

deau around a chest, let
my breastbones be banshees
screeching what they can’t
withstand, ha ha! make it the ban

e of their pathetic existence,
leering over the banister for
what they desire so bad, the curve
of our necks & all the sound
they can’t make, they ban

it, then take it like bandits, ha
ha, and then make us
deviants, strangers to our
selves, a mass in
vasion they invited with their
violence, ha

ha this isn’t funny, but I’ve got to
laugh, sell my four dirty tables so
I can buy six clean ones, sáu bàn
that still look so bẩn, even if the
surface sheen shines, there’s blood
in the wood, no really, can’t you see it?


~*~ ~*~ ~*~

if your ancestors can no longer pro
pagate this, then you
must, you can, repeat after me:

bốn bạn bán bốn bàn bẩn
bốn bạn bán bốn bàn bẩn

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

I’ll get bảy bạn, which just sounds
Better than sáu bạn, each sitting around
their own bàn bẩn

this is a poem, after

all the dear bạn are seated, there will
be one more, standing without a bàn
bẩn, ready to be bán again, never
too bận to play their game again
buy sell, bifurcating cells, by themself

to this dear bạn, I said come
with me to this little neck
in the sky, a small place with
more air, they can’t ban us, can’t
bắn us up here, in here, this
little twist in the thermosphere,
so warm up here, here, ở đây
a day can be our little small
forever, kiss me, in the neck,
neck me away from the window

they can’t see, can’t hear, can’t
know the banana tree growing up here
so many branches, they could neck all
night, romance the easy ha ha
happy ending, almost funny how
our hands are still bẩn,