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I Want

By Paul Tran

TO SAY IT PLAIN. He comes inside
without a sound. I shut the door

I should have never opened. My body
flips over on the bed like a coin

face up. There’s no choice
in the outcome—just blood

sliding down on my knees. I try to speak
but his tongue in my mouth doesn’t

let me. SAY IT PLAIN. He pins my arms
back and makes me call him

DADDY. The ceiling suspends
above me. I feel it shake

each time he thrashes his weight
into my skull. Like a ghost,

I pull the white sheets around me
until I disappear completely. I pretend

I’m not there. I don’t want to look at him
but he makes me. SAY IT PLAIN.

I dig my nails through the seams. I watch
him watch me watch him stroke my hair.

I know it isn’t him but his kindness
that hurts me to the point of death.

I WANT TO SAY IT PLAIN. I don’t know
how else to explain what happened

except to—SAY IT, SAY IT
PLAIN—say it

the only way I can.

Added: Thursday, June 11, 2015  /  Used with permission.
Paul Tran
Photo by Chrysanthemum Tran.

Paul Tran is Poetry Editor at The Offing and Chancellor's Graduate Fellow in The Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Their work appears in The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, and RHINO, which gave them an Editor's Prize. A recipient of fellowships and residencies from Kundiman, VONA, Poets House, Lambda Literary Foundation, Napa Valley Writers Conference, Home School, Vermont Studio Center, The Conversation, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Miami Writers Institute, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, Paul is the first Asian American since 1993 to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam. Since 2013, Paul has taught creative writing and coached the slam poetry teams at Barnard College, Brown University, Columbia University, Hunter College, New Urban Arts in Providence, RI, and Urban Word NYC, as seen on HBO Brave New Voices. Paul is working on their first poetry collection. The manuscript examines intergenerational trauma, sexual violence, and U.S. empire after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Learn more at their website.


Paul Tran is a Featured Poet for Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2018. Visit the festival information page for details.

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