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TWO POEMS by Nghiem Tran



The winter stars, months later,

Would ask why I went there. Why I went

Knowing what the cellar held. Abyss.

Stillness. The dark mounting me, a saddle.

To the stars nothing could come close to

Their diminishment, celestial and light-years

Away. At the time, I really didn’t

Know I was making a mistake. I heard

The birdcall of desire and flew.

Red-breasted and alone. Into a nest of Night woven with moonlight. Threads Of it tightening and brightening,

His hold on me the spectral presence

Of a makeshift heaven. I sought

A home in ghosts and grieved what Was never there. Would the real thing Be any different? All along the fog

On the window was my breath

Seeking a vessel to crack wide open.


They’re right, the monks robed in mud. Their breaths sour and unrepentant.

You think you’re safe?

Thoughts thrown like a spear

Into mirrors. And the mirage shatters. Then the return to the prismatic

Prison. Solitude to wade into. A pond, Cold, dark––But safe. No more thinking Whether an ally’s words hid a blade beneath The tongue. Assume the worst,

And set fire to the Trojan horse. Invasion: The armed men in the belly of a

Carefully worded truce. Once Lucifer

Was loyal, kissing the hand of God. Once

The world came to you like a small child.


NGHIEM TRAN was born in Vietnam and raised in Kansas. He is a Kundiman Fellow. His work can be seen in American Poetry Review, The Adroit Journal, the Offing, Wildness, and elsewhere.


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