Saturday, August 22, 2020

Almost Human by Ocean Vuong

Almost Human


It’s been a long time since my body.

Unbearable, I put it down

on the earth the way my old man

rolled dice. It’s been a long time since

time. But I had weight back there. Had substance

& sinew, damage you could see

by looking between your hands & hearing

blood. It was called reading, they told me,

too late. But too late. I red. I made a killing

in language & was surrounded

by ghosts. I used my arsenal

of defunct verbs & broke

into a library of second chances,

the E.R. Where they bandaged

my head, even as the black words

kept seeping through,

like this. Back there, I couldn’t

get the boys to look at me

even in my best jean jacket.

It was 2006 or 1865 or .327.

What a time to be alive! they said,

this time louder, more assault rifles.

Did I tell you? I come from a people of sculptors

whose masterpiece was rubble. We

tried. Indecent, tongue-tied, bowl-cut & diabetic,

I had a feeling. The floorboards creaked

as I wept motionless by the rehab window.

If words, as they claimed, had no weight

in our world, why did we keep

sinking, Doctor—I mean

Lord—why did the water swallow

our almost human hands

as we sang? Like this.

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