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POEMS

- by Ocean Vuong

IMMIGRATION

We lay motionless
tricking the walls of our own home.
I had to touch to believe
my father was shaking.

Darkness made fools of limbs.
Moonlight divided our bodies
into the blue patches
we could not keep.

The river sliced our legs at the waist.
We moved, drifting like wood
broken from an oar. Water 
could keep our secret.

A croc surged from the shade of shadows.
My mother’s hand clasped my mouth
the sour of her sweat would infuse 
these dreams for years.

At that moment we began to recall
the cells we shared with nature
asking vines to take us as bark
and shield our human in its arms. 

We took our breath 
and tucked it under organs
thankful that unlike people, reptiles
do not eat when full.

Buried in the boat’s bowels, 
we huddled with the rest.
A river of piss and vomit
streamed across the deck—washing away
the fallen tears.

As the beach dims with distance
we hurled our hearts in the ocean
and watched the salt sizzle
in their wounds.

At night, we would wake 
and place a hand on the closest chest
absorbing the comfort of a subtle beat, then drift 
back into dreams of chrysanthemums 
blooming by the rivers.

Slipping into fog’s sleeve
we reached the new land.
Our genes we buried in dirt
no different from the soil
soaked with our mother’s blood.

Desolate from ourselves
we dissipated, crawled
into crevices, alleys, sewers
where the shadows of houses 
accepted our shame.

As orphans
we had nothing left to offer 
but the heat 

escaping

our bones.

Biography
Ocean Vuong is a Creative Writing Student at Brooklyn College. He is also an editor and writer for the Vietnam Literature Project in an aspiration to promote Vietnamese authors and their works. His poetry has been published in various literary journals including the North Central Review, the Connecticut River Review, Convergence, Ghoti, Poetalk, Ganymede, and Barnwood Press Review among others. He won the Beatrice Dubin Rose award for poetry and has work forthcoming in an anthology titled Smoke, published by PWP Press in Hoboken NJ