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He puts his hand
on the glass.

The shower fills
with steam.

He disappears.

Tracing the imprint,
I feel him
slick back my hair.

Then he enters
a finger somewhere
I can’t describe.

I watch myself
unwind like a snake
in the mirror.

Each layer
of skin
slides off.

I crawl into the exteriors
of my former self,
my derma

of unwanted pleasures.
They smell
like someone else—

an afternoon
so ordinary
until it isn’t.


I write his name
on a sheet of paper.
Like my heart,

I fold it in half,
set it in the center
of a mixing bowl—

lavender, quartz,
feathers I pluck
off a headless pigeon

at the park
by my mother’s
tailoring shop—

With a kitchen knife,
I summon blood
to the surface

of my left palm.
Love line, life line,
tell me what this means:

I clench my fist and squeeze
the ichor over the dead
flowers, the white rocks

and plume,
my collapsed organ.
I strike a match,

its violet hunger
mauling the contents
of a child’s unadulterated rage,

its magic.

To vanquish my father
forever, I whisper the words
into the pyre.


I bury his ash
in the garden.


I wait a season.


Winter to spring.


Then summer.

Nothing blooms
where I keep him.

Not the hoa lan or birds
of paradise choking
the encroaching fern.

Except me,
he still kills


I fill the tub
with water.

It overflows.

slosh across
the floor.

I braid
my scarlet hair
in the fleeting light,

emerald tail
splashing against
the waves.

I give my voice
to a sea witch
to enter

the mortal world,
pretty universe

with song
and pent up men
who love

like my father.
They hurt me,

and I say nothing.

I relinquish
the greatest thing I have
for my greatest wish.

I turn into sea foam.
I learn nothing
ceases to exist—

only shape shift,

I lie on my back.
In the bath,

I drain

I wipe myself clean.

On the mirror,
I draw a child-

I turn off
the lights.

I walk naked
into the next

Paul Tran is a Vietnamese American historian & poet. His work appears in CURA, Nepantla, cream city review, The Cortland Review & RHINO, which selected him for a 2015 Editor's Prize. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, VONA, Poets House, Lambda Literary, Napa Valley & Imagining America, Paul currently lives in NYC, where he's a Graduate Scholar in the Archives at the NYU Asian/Pacific/American Institute & coaches the Barnard/Columbia slam team.

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