To My Father / To My Future Son
The stars are not hereditary
There was a door & then a door
surrounded by a forest.
Look, my eyes are not
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
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.
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
& 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.
from Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon, 2016/Cape 2017), copyright © Ocean Vuong 2016, used by permission of the author and the publishers