Living With It


When it was all over, my father came back
a rack of bones with a stammer.

Everywhere he looked,
there were cats. Everywhere

their headless torsos.
Occasionally, too,

a scattering
of field mice.

After all this, to “start over,”
to “put it all behind you”

as if to look over your shoulders,
you would see nothing.

Would not see all the dead ones
knee-deep in hell and envious

of your years
ahead, under house arrest.

Stillness, they sighed,
is still much better than dying.

Or as if, to look
forward you would not see

the rows
and rows of poorly-fitting suits:

pesticide sprayer,
housekeeper, shrimp picker.

Your body, the husk you lie inside
like a coffin.

Wearing again your face,
your hands. This flesh with which

you must persist.
Red seams of knuckles.

A shortage of skin all over.
Trying to shine again,

in spite of these incisions. These years spent
tarrying between two worlds.

Born in 1986, Binh Nguyen is a political exile to the U.S. from Vietnam who currently lives in London. A recipient of a Gates Scholarship, she holds an MFA as a George Starbuck Fellow and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow at Boston University. Binh has also studied at the Ezra Pound Center for Literature in Italy. Her recent works appear in Salamander, Poetry Ireland, Popshot Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly, CALYX, and Palimpsest. She is currently at work on her first collection, As Though We Are One.

When it was all over, my father came back
a rack of bones with a stammer.