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her story—a bone-white line across her throat.
Given enough time, she says, are all stories
not ghost stories? She is like us, only
lighter (for being dead), and so, she clings
to the air like incense smoke. The moment we
swill down our pills she is gone. Her question hangs
in the dark, quiet and alive. You squeeze my hand.
The thing with incense is it eats itself
alive to send a message. Here we are.
We syllables of smoke, we animals
shaved and sedated. Give us wings and we
will join you. Give us tongues and we will translate
ourselves. You may as well give us the crown
too, because we’ve already swallowed the jewels.

Steven Duong was born in Toronto, Ontario and raised in San Diego, California by Vietnamese immigrants. He attended Grinnell College, where he was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize and a Selden Whitcomb Poetry Prize. Duong's poems have been published or are forthcoming in venues including Poets, Pleiades, Salt Hill, Passages North, Diode, and Split Lip Magazine. As a 2019 Watson Fellow, he will be traveling internationally to conduct a writing project titled "Freshwater Fish and the Poetry of Containment."

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