UNCONFIRMED LOVERS WHO ACT ACCORDING TO THE COLORS OF THE SKY

"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.


Saṃsāra

1

to find a way back, he clings on
his name.

2

the little dog’s drowning in a basin.

inside the basin held a pitch black night.

the pitch black night
held the dog vomiting
rain onto the ground.

the rain then became
her mournful barks,
then the barks became his name.

and his name became the father’s
ideology to love his sons.

3

the older brother was no van Gogh,

but father sliced his ear off
with a kitchen knife —

to help him learn to listen.

the younger one
still having both of his ears.

van Gogh becomes his name.

4

the kitchen knife has become his name,
the drowning dog has become his name,

he mounts the syllables onto
the inside of his head.

until the skull bursts open,
a mixture of rain and basin water
and dog’s piss pouring out
until it’s enough to
fill up the scar today
and the scar tomorrow.

5

all he could do is to cling on it
to find a way back —
the name’s become an eternity.
the father is an eternity.

WHAT IT TAKES

One way to learn about love, what it takes, is through how your brother and his wife feed their baby. She barely sucks the warm liquid flowing from the inside of her mother, but there is a pumping machine attached to her breasts. That way, the milk can be measured to its very ounces. She carefully fills the bottles with the pumped milk. Then, another machine is used to keep them warm, until the baby girl is ready to be fed. Meanwhile, the child is often sound asleep in her singing carriage, until she wakes up, forgets about the mother’s breasts and forgets her tongue. I used to have bottles, too, filled with the water splashing out from a large basin when he tried to drown my 3-month-old dog until she shat herself, for her didn’t stop barking in a dark, stormy evening. I didn’t forget about the dog and didn’t forget my tongue, for my tongue was once my mother’s, who was on her knees, begging her God for something good to end up in her womb, a daughter maybe — but her words only traveled halfway, and eventually, she had me instead. To understand what it takes to learn about love is to remember what we had lost escorting the tongue of a mother, besides her breasts and the dog howling in a dark, stormy evening.

YOUR NIGHTGOWN IN BLUE

On one of the four walls
was a door.
I walked through that door,
& arrived at another four-wall.
One of those walls also had a door,
(With either mom or dad behind it),
A spinning ventilator next to it,
& a piece of shit that stained dry.

Here in your nightgown I dressed,
the one you wore when your head pressed against the wall,
& your cheeks turning pale —
I thought they matched so well with the blue of your dress;
How funny…

& that night I was in your gown,
his hand bulged some big blue lines,
some black, green & yellow wires growing out of it —
Those colors kissed my arms & merely red they’d become.
From that, I learnt our flesh could change colors
depending on what kind of sin we bear with us;
Yet mine was so red,
& it didn’t fit the blue gown of yours —

I lit up a cigarette, soaking wet & half-burnt,
should be peed on by that man, who’s always pissed off.
I dragged a long puff,
& let parts of my body out through a trembling mouth,
by sneaking into those whirling propellers,
They could at least retain their whiteness
elsewhere;
At least not in this room,
where walls are shat & doors are shut,
& not even your nightgown
in blue.

MOUNTAINS

3:00 PM
Inside the rubber plantation
leaf rubbing against one another
like fragments of ghostly bullets piercing holes
onto nameless bodies
(*a piece of broken memory)

8:00 PM
Iced moon and snowing stars make
one’s breath illuminate
half a box of cigarettes already fades
into mountain clouds

10:00 PM
Under the blanket made of Venus’ eyes
& a mundane mind
The way
a son big spoons
the ancient tree
filled with his own blood;

The way
A dominant goes deep into the flesh
just to feel protected;
The way
a whole city scrammed into the pine needle
& Bach’s Prelude No.1
repeats only its four first measures.

It’s called warmth;
& swallowing the future
we dive.

DANCING TO SLEEP

On April 19, 2020, a friend of mine, a young visual artist and writer, committed suicide and passed away. She’s been suffering from severe bipolar disorder before she decided to take her life.

my dear
you are safe
you are safe
so you can be anything:
mythical pine forests
whispering lakes
or even the sun rises
and sets in circles
you name it
because you are
but finer and enough
now there’d be no need for
twice burnt cannabis
scrolling in hand-torn
parchment paper on
your dry lips because
you are found
you are found under the
monsoon rain of Saigon
through the small window
of your studio where
white sunrays leaking
from your hair
bare and divine
falling back to earth now
you can be anything
anything but the “crazy girl”
whose tangerine shadows
are bright and she is
dancing herself to sleep
on a friday evening
at 10 o’clock
and still hanging
on my bedroom’s wall
smelling like chips
and hot seafood tacos
but you are the jarred ashes
but you are safe
you are safe
because worse than
a nasty taco
is to stay unknown where
you left and that being
born into this world
is to live you best
before you leave
before you leave
for good.

AN INTERPRETATION OF SUFFERINGS

to his counselor,
he made
a long list
of symptoms:
depressed,
back pain,
local pain,
loss of appetite,
loss of concentration,
nausea,
loss of interest,
language distortion —
through
the computer screen;
& she later
called them dukkha
for the sake
of censorship;
he went on:
nothing has changed
since I’m back
here:
she would be
chanting the Vietnamese
transcribed version
of Jewel Sutras
every night,
eyes closed,
without
understanding
a word of it;
she
had long
karaoke hours
once a week,
singing the same
repeated tunes,
with max volume
& doubled echoes —
exactly the way
her daunting
blame
bouncing against
his sickened head;
the Buddha
would bless
all of us

her belief was
tremendous:
by placing Him
on the altar,
next to her
dead grandpa
& the late
General,
with non-
toxic incenses
& phonetic
recitation
every night;
without knowing
none of us
is yet
near nirvana
& neither was
close enough
for her
to understand
changes have
various meanings,
so she ended up
censored
(his) the suffering
parts;
she persisted
with firm
to rather have
the Buddha
bless the shit
out of (him) us
;
even though
a Buddhist would
claim such thing
as theoretically incorrect
& none of us
was even
an inch
close up
to enlightenment.

BEVERAGE POEM

At the age of 5,
I was first introduced to coffee.
I used to drink ’em every morning
so that I could avoid breakfast at kindergarten.
How I drank:
in a bowl of hot water goes the cup of condensed milk,
a filtre à café on top of it.
Then, I studied the drink:
drops of black hitting the white surface
and blended it out slowly,
& felt a childish crave in the stomach.
When the coffee was one-third of the milk,
I stirred it up & sipped it — as many times as I could
& let the warm fluid penetrate my senses.
Recommendation: if you’re a 5-year-old,
you can skip breakfast

because a 5-year-old does not know
about colonialism —
At the age of 6,
I knew about Pepsi,
which was only allowed after a big feast.
Mom said it’s good for digestion,
but too much of it will lead to cancer.
In fact, I could never finish the whole can myself
even as a grown adult, plus a cup of ice.
I saw some American drank the whole thing up,
straight from the aluminum container.
PepsiCo, Inc. is an American multinational food, snack and
beverage corporation…”

Thoughts: maybe capitalism is both abundant and capacious;
Recommendation: “better when drinking cold”
Caution: too much drinking causes cancer (?)
Is this just a Vietnamese thing?
I don’t know, & neither do I expect to finish the whole can;
I’m just simply curious about the people who can —
As I’ve drunk them both,
I write poetry.

MILK-WOMAN IN BLACK COMPLET

busy street at 5 PM
the woman was on her motorbike
resting on the terracotta pavement

her forehead sparkled
a drop of sweat
filled with an orange sunset
with leaf and wind
with houses and buildings
a crowded T-junction
and flocks of migrating storks

she wore a black suit
but her bike’s handles
hung blocks
of crème caramels
and her backseat
tied a red box
with chilling milk bottles

I looked at her
and the sunset drop
but I didn’t want to make a guess
of her name
or her job
or her life
or even her suit
so I simply called her
“milk-woman in a black complet”
to keep myself grounded
to heredity
to now
to now
to now and here