To My Father / To My Future Son

                   The stars are not hereditary 

                                         Emily Dickinson 


There was a door & then a door 

                          surrounded by a forest. 


                                              Look, my eyes are not 

           your eyes. 


                     You move through me like rain 


                                   from another country. 

Yes, you have a country. 

                                             Someday, they will find it 

                while searching for lost ships . . .  


Once, I fell in love 

                          during a slow-motion car crash. 


We looked so peaceful, the cigarette floating from his lips 

                                           as our heads whiplashed back 

               into the dream & all 

                                                        was forgiven. 


             Because what you heard, or will hear, is true: I wrote 

a better hour onto the page 


                            & watched the fire take it back. 


Something was always burning. 

                                     Do you understand? I closed my mouth 

but could still taste the ash 

                                      because my eyes were open. 


From men, I learned to praise the thickness of walls. 

                                                        From women, 

                          I learned to praise. 


                                    If you are given my body, put it down. 

If you are given anything 

                       be sure to leave 

                                                  no tracks in the snow. Know 


                      that I never chose 

which way the seasons turned. That it was always October 

                                                                         in my throat 


                       & you: every leaf 

                                                    refusing to rust. 


                       Quick. Can you see the red dark shifting? 


This means I am touching you. This means 

                                      you are not alone – even 

                    as you are not. 

                                           If you get there before me, if you think 

                                                                                     of nothing 


& my face appears rippling 

                       like a torn flag – turn back. 


Turn back & find the book I left 

                                      for us, filled 

                                                     with all the colors of the sky 

                    forgotten by gravediggers. 

                                                                  Use it. 

from Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon, 2016/Cape 2017), copyright © Ocean Vuong 2016, used by permission of the author and the publishers

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