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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

Ocean Vuong - Two Poems

The Last Dinosaur

When people ask me what it’s like, I tell them
imagine being born in a hospice
that’s on fire. As my relatives melted, I stood
on one leg, raised my arms, eyes shut, & thought:
tree tree tree as death passed me—untouched.
I didn’t know God saw in us a failed
attempt at heaven. Didn’t know my eyes
had three shades of white but only one image
of my mother. She’s standing under an ancient
pine, sad that her time on Earth is all she owns.
Oh human, I’m not mad at you for winning
but that you never wished for more. Lord
of language, why didn’t you master No
without forgetting Yes? Sure—we can
make out, if you want, but I’m warning you
it’s a lot. Sometimes I think gravity
was like To be brutally honest . . . & then
never stopped talking. I guess what I mean
is that I ate the apple not because the man lied
when he said I was born of his rib but
because I wanted to fill myself with its hunger
for the ground, where the bones of my people
still dream of me. I bet the light on this page
isn’t invented yet. I bet you never guessed
that my ass was once a small-town wonder.
That the triceratops went nuts
when I danced. How once, after weeks
of drought, I walked through my father’s laughter
just to feel the rain. Oh wind-broke wanderer, widow of hope
& ha-has, oh sister, dropped seed—help me.
I was made to die but I’m here to stay.

 

Nothing

We are shoveling snow, this man and I, our backs coming closer along the drive. It’s so quiet I can hear every flake on my coat. I used to cry in a genre no one read. What a joke, they said, on fire. There’s no money in it, son, they shouted, smoke leaking from their mouths. But ghosts say funny things when they’re family. This man and I, we take the weight of what will vanish anyway and move it aside, making room. There is so much room in a person there should be more of us in here. I wave to you, traveler, inches away but never visible from where I am. Are you warm where you are? Are you you where you are? Something will come of this. In one of the rooms in the house the man and I share, a loaf of rye is rising out of itself, growing lighter as it takes up more of the world. In humans, we call this Aging. In bread, we call it Progress. We’re in our thirties now and I rolled the dough just an hour ago, pushing my glasses up my nose with my flour-dusted palm as I read, reread, the hand-scrawled recipe given me by the man’s grandmother, the one who, fleeing Stalin, bought a ticket from Vilnius to Dresden without thinking it would stop, it so happened, in Auschwitz (it was a town after all), where she and her brother were asked to get off by soldiers who whispered, keep moving, keep moving like sons leading their mothers through wheat fields in the night. How she passed through huddled coats, how some were herded down barb-wired lanes. The smoke from our mouths rising as the man and I bend and lift, in silence, the morning clear as one inside a snow globe. For how can we know, with a house full of bread, that it’s hunger, not people, that survives? The man pours a bag of salt over the pavement. But from where I’m standing it looks like light is spilling out of him, like the ray of dusty sun that found his grandmother’s hands as she got back on the train, her brother at her side, smoke from the engine blown across the faces outside blurring into pine forests, warped pastures, empty houses with full rooms. The man clutches his stomach as if shot, and the light floods out of him, I mean you—because something must come of this. Poetry makes nothing happen, someone who is dead now said after a friend’s death. When the guard asked your grandmother if she was Jewish, she shook her head, half-lying, then took from her bag a roll, baked the night before, tucked it in the guard’s chest pocket. She didn’t look back as the train carried her, newly seventeen, toward where I now stand, on a Sunday in Florence, Massachusetts, squinting at her faded words: sift flour, then beat eggs until “happy-yellow.” The train will reach Dresden days before the sky is filled with firebombers. More smoke. A bullet in her brother under rubble, his name everywhere outside her like the snow falling on your face forty years later, on December 2, 1984, while your mother carries you, alive only three hours, the few steps to the mini-van where your grandmother, nearly sixty now, crowns your head with her brother’s name. Peter! she says, Peter! Peter! as if the dead could be called back from rubble into new, stunned bones. The snow has started up again, whitening the path as though nothing happened. Oh, to live like a bullet, to touch people with such purpose. To be born going one way, toward everything alive. To walk into the world you never asked for but then choose the room where your hunger ends—which part of war do we owe such knowledge? It’s warm in this house where we will die, you and I. Let the stanza be one room, then. Let it be big enough for everyone, even the ghosts rising now from this bread we tear open to see what we’ve made of each other. I know, we’ve been growing further apart, unhappy but half full. That clearing snow and baking bread will not save us. I know, too, as I reach across the table to brush the leftover ice from your beard, that it’s already water. It’s nothing you say, laughing for the first time in weeks. It’s really nothing. And I believe you. I shouldn’t, but I do.

Ocean Vuong - The Last Prom Queen in Antarctica

It’s true I’m all talk & a French tuck
but so what. Like the wind, I ride
my own life. Neon light electric
in the wet part of roadkill
on the street where I grew up. I want to
take care of our planet
because I want a beautiful
coffin. It’s true, I’m not
a writer but a faucet
underwater. When the flood comes
I’ll raise my hand so they know
who to shoot. The sky flashes. The sea
yearns. I myself
am hell. Everyone’s here. Sometimes
I go to parties just to dangle my feet
out of high windows, among people.
The boy crying in his car
at the end of his shift at McDonald’s
on Easter Sunday. The way
he wipes his eyes with his shirt
as the big trucks blare
from the interstate. My favorite
kind of darkness is the one
inside us, I want to tell him.
And: I like the way your apron
makes it look like you’re ready
for war. I too am ready for war.
Given another chance,
I’d pick the life where I play the piano
in a room with no roof. Broken keys, Bach
sonata like footsteps fast
down the stairs as
my father chases my mother
through New England’s endless
leaves. Maybe music was always
a stroke of night high in the lord
-­low oak. Maybe I saw a boy in a Nissan
the size of a monster’s coffin
crying in his black apron & knew
I could never be straight. Maybe,
like you, I was one of those people
who loves the world most
when I’m rock-­bottom in my fast car
going nowhere.

The Yale Review · "The Last Prom Queen in Antarctica," by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong - Skinny Dipping

some boys
have ghosted
from this high

but I wanna
go down on you
anyway

to leap from
the bridge I’ve made
of my wrongs look

they lied to us
no one here
was ever ugly look

if you see
me then
I prayed

correctly I leapt
from the verb
taking off

my best shirt
this rag & rage
a tulip too late

in summer’s teeth
like the blade
in a guillotine I won’t

pick a side
my name a past
tense where I left

my hands
for good oh
it should be

enough
to live & die alone
with cum on

your tongue
to jump from
anywhere & make it

home
to be warm & full of
nothing oh

I kept my hope
-blue Vans on
this whole time

to distract you
from my flat ass
did it work oh

my people
I thought
the fall would

save me
but it only
made me real

Ocean Vuong - Dear Peter

they treat me well
here they don’t
make me forget
the world like you
promised but oh well
I’m back
inside my head
again
where it’s safe
cause I’m not
there the xanax
dissolves & I’m
okay this bed
no longer stranded
the door coming closer
now & I’m gonna
dock some days
I make it to
the reading room
they have one flew over
the cuckoo’s nest can you
believe it but hey
I think I’m getting better
though I learned
in the courtyard yesterday
I’m still afraid
of butterflies
how they move so much
like a heart
on fire I know it doesn’t
make sense this pill
a bone-shard of will
unwilling me Peter
I feel sorry
for anyone
who has to die despite
the fact I was
fifteen once but
who knows I tell lies
to keep from
falling away
from me you
wouldn’t
believe it a man
in the back of
a walgreens once said
I can make you look
like something true
fuck he said
oh fuck you’re so much
like my little brother
so I let him kiss me
for nothing oh well
childhood
is only a cage
that widens
like this sunlight honest
through the clinic window
where a girl
on methadone
claps alone
at a beige butterfly
knocking its head up
the beige wall Peter
I’m wearing your sea-green socks
to stay close I swear
I’ll learn to swim
when I’m out once
& for all
the body floats
for a reason maybe
we can swim right up
to it grab
on & kick us back
to shore Peter I think
I’m doing it right
now finally maybe
I’m winning even
if it just looks like
my fingers
are shaking

Ocean Vuong - Not Even This

Hey.

I used to be a fag now I’m a checkbox.

The pen tip jabbed in my back, I feel the mark of progress.

I will not dance alone in the municipal graveyard at midnight, blasting sad
songs on my phone, for nothing.

I promise you, I was here. I felt things that made death so large it was
indistinguishable from air—and I went on destroying inside it like wind in
a storm.

The way Lil Peep says I’ll be back in the mornin’  when you know how it ends.

The way I kept dancing when the song was over, because it freed me.

The way the streetlight blinks once, before waking up for its night shift, like
we do.

The way we look up and whisper sorry to each other, the boy and I, when
there’s teeth.

When there’s always teeth, on purpose.

When I threw myself into gravity and made it work. Ha.

I made it out by the skin of my griefs.

I used to be a fag now I’m lit. Ha.

Once, at a party set on a rooftop in Brooklyn for an “artsy vibe,” a young
woman said, sipping her drink, You’re so lucky. You’re gay plus you get to
write about war and stuff. I’m just white. [Pause.] I got nothing. [Laughter,
glasses clinking.]

Unlike feelings, blood gets realer when you feel it.

Because everyone knows yellow pain, pressed into American letters, turns
to gold.

Our sorrow Midas-touched. Napalm with a rainbow afterglow.

I’m trying to be real but it costs too much.

They say the Earth spins and that’s why we fall but everyone knows it’s the
music.

It’s been proven difficult to dance to machine gun fire.

Still, my people made a rhythm this way. A way.

My people, so still, in the photographs, as corpses.

My failure was that I got used to it. I looked at us, mangled under the TIME
photographer’s shadow, and stopped thinking, Get up, get up.

I saw the graveyard steam in the pinkish dawn and knew the dead were still
breathing. Ha.

If they come for me, take me home take me out.

What if it wasn’t the crash that made me, but the debris?

What if it was meant this way: the mother, the lexicon, the line of cocaine on
the mohawked boy’s collarbone in an East Village sublet in 2007?

What’s wrong with me, Doc? There must be a pill for this.

Too late—these words already shrapnel in your brain.

Impossible in high school, I am now the ultimate linebacker. I plow through
the page, making a path for you, dear reader, going nowhere.

Because the fairy tales were right. You’ll need magic to make it out of here.

Long ago, in another life, on an Amtrak through Iowa, I saw, for a few blurred
seconds, a man standing in the middle of a field of winter grass, hands at his
side, back to me, all of him stopped there save for his hair scraped by low
wind.

When the countryside resumed its wash of gray wheat, tractors, gutted
barns, black sycamores in herdless pastures, I started to cry. I put my copy
of Didion’s The White Album down and folded a new dark around my head.

The woman beside me stroked my back saying, in a Midwestern accent that
wobbled with tenderness, Go on son. You get that out now. No shame in
breakin’ open. You get that out and I’ll fetch us some tea. Which made me
lose it even more.

She came back with Lipton in paper cups, her eyes nowhere blue and there.
She was silent all the way to Missoula, where she got off and said, patting my
knee, God is good. God is good.

I can say it was beautiful now, my harm, because it belonged to no one else.

To be a dam for damage. My shittiness will not enter the world, I thought,
and quickly became my own hero.

Do you know how many hours I’ve wasted watching straight boys play video
games?

Enough.

Time is a mother.

Lest we forget, a morgue is also a community center.

In my language, the one I recall now only by closing my eyes, the word for
love is Yeu.

And the word for weakness is Yếu.

How you say what you mean changes what you say.

Some call this prayer. I call it watch your mouth.

When they zipped my mother in a body bag I whispered: Rose, get out of there.
Your plants are dying.

Enough is enough.

Body, doorway that you are, be more than what I’ll pass through.

Stillness. That’s what it was.

The man in the field in the red sweater, he was so still he became, somehow,
more true, like a knife wound in a landscape painting.

Like him, I caved.

I caved and decided it will be joy from now on. Then everything opened. The
lights blazed around me into a white weather

and I was lifted, wet and bloody, out of my mother, screaming

and enough.

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.

Ocean Vuong - You Guys

brushing my teeth at 2
in the morning I say
over my shoulder
you guys you guys I’m serious
what are we going to make
of this mess my voice
muffled with wintergreen foam what
are we going to do now
that it hurts when I look
at those I love like
you two you
who have been through
so much together the thick & thin the skin
of it I’m proud of you both
I say as the foam pinkens
through my lips I’m told
our blood is green but touches the world
with endings my name a place
where I’ve waited for
collisions you guys are
you listening I’m sorry
for being useful only
in language are you still
with me I ask as I peer into the tub
where I placed them gently down
the two white rabbits
I had found on harris st the way back
from Emily’s where we watched American Dad!
on her mom’s birthday her mom
who would have been 56
this year we ate rocky road
in bowls with blue tulips
I’m too tired she said
to be this happy
& we laughed without
moving our hands perhaps
the rabbits are lovers or sisters sometimes
it’s hard to tell sex
from breathing
earlier I had scooped them
from the pavement
they were crushed but only
kinda one
had a dented half-face
the other’s back flattened like
a courage sock
I cradled them wetly
in my sweatshirt but now
the tub is a red world save for the silent
island of fur flickering
in my fugitive words guys
just wait for me alright
just wait a while longer you guys
I swear I’ll take us home I’ll
leave this place
spotless when I’m done I say
reaching back
to my wisdom teeth forgetting
it’s been 4 years
since they were gone

Ocean Vuong - Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong

After Frank O’Hara / After Roger Reeves

 

Ocean, don’t be afraid.

The end of the road is so far ahead

it is already behind us.

Don’t worry. Your father is only your father

until one of you forgets. Like how the spine

won’t remember its wings

no matter how many times our knees

kiss the pavement. Ocean,

are you listening? The most beautiful part

of your body is wherever

your mother’s shadow falls.

Here’s the house with childhood

whittled down to a single red tripwire.

Don’t worry. Just call it horizon

& you’ll never reach it.

Here’s today. Jump. I promise it’s not

a lifeboat. Here’s the man

whose arms are wide enough to gather

your leaving. & here the moment,

just after the lights go out, when you can still see

the faint torch between his legs.

How you use it again & again

to find your own hands.

You asked for a second chance

& are given a mouth to empty into.

Don’t be afraid, the gunfire

is only the sound of people

trying to live a little longer. Ocean. Ocean,

get up. The most beautiful part of your body

is where it’s headed. & remember,

loneliness is still time spent

with the world. Here’s

the room with everyone in it.

Your dead friends passing

through you like wind

through a wind chime. Here’s a desk

with the gimp leg & a brick

to make it last. Yes, here’s a room

so warm & blood-close,

I swear, you will wake—

& mistake these walls

for skin.

Ocean Vuong - Scavengers

                               Your body wakes

into its quiet rattle.

                                            Ropes & ropes . . .

 

                   How quickly the animal

empties.

                   We’re alone again

                               with spent mouths.

 

Two trout gasping

                                            on a June shore.

Side by side, I see

                               what I came for, behind

 

your iris: a tiny mirror.

                                                         I stare

into its silver syllable

                               where a fish with my face

twitches once

                   then gones.

 

                                            The fisherman

                                                         suddenly a boy

with too much to carry.