Here is a gravel road, Việt Nam. Here are patches of tropic
grass that line the road, & within them leaves that rattle
like saltshakers. Here is your home, fences of bamboo tied together
in black arches, & above them roofs of damp thatch that drip
to the sleeping bodies below. Here are doors so blood-warm you can see handprints, the air’s breath
a hollowed white.
Children in a swarm. Rickshaws drop like fly’s eggs,
their drivers resting in a sweat-smoked ease. Outside, the
sycamores howl, & inside, you hold tight onto your sister’s hand,
pray one day to be on the other side of the Pacific,
in America, your body bowed like a bowstring. Overhead,
God throws stars like knives. Finches glisten in & out of moonlight.
We kneel in pews together every Sunday in Houston
suburbia. You count dreams like feathers plucked
from quail’s underbelly. I count fluorescent lights on the ceiling
& ask myself how much darker the room would be with
one singed. We listen to a sermon on faith, & I calculate
its equivalent in miles, the size of another ocean to cross.
Excerpt from Permutations of a Self: Poems (Texas Review Press) by Thomas V. Nguyen; copyright 2019 by Thomas V. Nguyen; used with permission.
Thomas V. Nguyen is a medical student at Texas A&M University College of Medicine. He graduated from Columbia University with an MS in Narrative Medicine and studied neuroscience and poetry during his undergraduate years at UT Austin. His poetry has been featured in Frontier Poetry, Nashville Review, Tinderbox Poetry, and Bellevue Literary Review, among others.