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By Hieu Minh Nguyen

in conversation with Danez Smith & sam sax

If things happen
the way they are supposed to
my mother will die before me.
My mother, who, by then, will love me
will die.

My mother, who, by then
will, hopefully, be happy, will walk
without pain from this life into the next

& I, her only son, her writer son
will stay to translate
her life into English.

Any adjective can be true
if you cry hard enough.

I can lie & say I haven’t written the poem
haven’t buried her over & over at my desk
haven’t described the ash of her body.

I throw a fist full of sand in the air
& pretend to weep.

I write the poem.
I fill my lungs with English.
I numb her skin with English.
I English the light she walks into.

I kill her
just to raise her from the dead.

I anticipate this grief by exhausting it
with music. I pry open the casket.
I make her twirl in the center.

Added: Tuesday, October 24, 2017  /  From the forthcoming "Not Here" (Coffee House Press, 2018). Used with permission.
Hieu Minh Nguyen

Hieu Minh Nguyen is a child of immigrants. He is the author of This Way to the Sugar 
(Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow, a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry magazine, Guernica, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. His second collection of poetry​, Not Here, ​is forthcoming on Coffee House Press in spring of 2018. He lives in Minneapolis.

Other poems by this author