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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean VuongOcean Vuong June 16, 2020
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Tell me it was for the hunger

& nothing less. For hunger is to give

the body what it knows

it cannot keep. That this amber light

whittled down by another war

is all that pins my hand

to your chest.


You, drowning

between my arms —


You, pushing your body

into the river

only to be left

with yourself —



I’ll tell you how we’re wrong enough to be forgiven. How one night, after


mother, then taking a chainsaw to the kitchen table, my father went to kneel

in the bathroom until we heard his muffled cries through the walls.

And so I learned that a man, in climax, was the closest thing

to surrender.


Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade.

Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn.

Say autumn despite the green

in your eyes. Beauty despite

daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn

mounting in your throat.

My thrashing beneath you

like a sparrow stunned

with falling.


Dusk: a blade of honey between our shadows, draining.


I wanted to disappear — so I opened the door to a stranger’s car. He was divorced. He was still alive. He was sobbing into his hands (hands that tasted like rust). The pink breast cancer ribbon on his keychain swayed in the ignition. Don’t w

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