Bad Survivalist: Tam Nguyen’s attempted poem “2020’s Impressions”

Heavy Feather Review

Halfway through the year of 2020


About the flood season in 1978:

My father’s boat was traveling to the drylands in the far South to collect some edible grass for the starving cows at home. The river was narrow enough for the melaleuca arms to remind him of guerrillas’ sneaky talks and gunfire.

It was a few years after the fall of Kien Phong’s provincial Department of Administration in 1975. Local kids were smashing up whatever destroyable, not knowing the Viet Cong were sound asleep inside the already shattered building. It was the Independence Day with some kids pricing their hardship, some weary soldiers dreaming upon fragmentations.

In fact, hardship can be delusional. My father saw some toads jumping on nameless coffins hanging above the water and mistook them for ghosts. He named his first son “Giang” after “river” for the sake of sanity.


About bowing:

My friend’s…

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"it is hard to believe when I'm with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it"
— Frank O'Hara

because smoke flowing out from
your mouth reminds me of how
we made a fire out of cheeks, and
the guitar’s howls that echoed
upon the pitch-black valley in
pine needled city. such idea is
solemn and still, like the moment
I found that used condom lying
beneath your bathroom door, still
and solemn. there were actions
before we knew what we are, and
no ideas what we’ve become. even
before becoming, what we always
did was to act according to the
colors of the sky: black is when my
dry lips mounting on your plain
forehead, while blue is when my arms
over your torso during the road trip,
and orange means your puffs and
mine becoming indistinguishable;
and since puffs equal to exhalation,
and exhalation equals to unsaid words,
we said nothing, and therefore still
no ideas what we’ve become after
city, after fire, after skin, after
solemnity, after us, and even the sky.