The mulberry creek
and between our eyelids
announces: you are
your father’s girl.
Chances are this
bloodline will run dry
after my sister and I;
all the brotherless daughters
of our grandmother’s sons.
And I haven’t yet decided, when
riverless children arrive
whether I will mourn
crowned in white cotton
or laugh upright before the altar.
After Sarah’s Birthday Party
Perch footwear in hand
ankles crossed, chafed, dainty, steeped
cinematic in shallow March chlorine.
On this edge of a white memorial
fountain and the solo side of midnight:
pink cotton candy cotton
socks and twenty rolls of film
for a plastic Holga nine seasons unused.
Twin quotations of a child
teetering on the ballot’s border
fumble out of earshot and end
a phrase operatic nanoscopic.
Manteau sprawled drowsing loyal
spaniel wide at the shoulders,
right thigh shielding wool
from a claw of spray.
The tag makes small talk: did you know
I was stitched very far from home.
Don’t you look for marriage material
in concrete, too. What if I could make
these coordinates tender.
Infrastructural widows past curve
still beneath floodwater, between schoolyards.
Matchmade. Each Niagara dripping onto asphalt,
every cranberry bog humming a peaceful child’s
first dead to sleep: pigeon chicks and housecats
tense in tangerine gore, artifacts of glamour
broiling over midsummer chalk initials.
Through your sister’s windshield
and the menisci of plastic blinds,
a hoodie I know calls hi.
What does the bested horseman think
suspended, clumsy seconds
between saddle and dirt?
Boxed wine, or three times you
thumbed the knuckles of my hand, smiling
as accidental as lipstick.
Stay up with me across hemispheres
and radiowaves. I’ll do my best
to hang up love you without letting on that
lately, so much looks like you.
Commute, Early August
Flat, chipped coral toenails belong to the dozing woman
facing me on the 7 train. A gentle linen habit of white
and grey, from cork sandals up, down arrowheads of hair
that spiral in query: does anyone leave sleep swallowing her hair?
I wonder whether it is sorry or darling to anyone that a woman
wears her polish so—moons of keratin peeking through. White (
more than my teeth, I’m afraid). I’m not proud. When my white
tea scalds, relief for cheap penance reminds my own lonely hair
to prick the neck. The announcement sounds, and this woman’s
opening eyes carry me to other white-haired women I might become.
Som-Mai Nguyen is a writer and a recent graduate of Stanford University’s Symbolic Studies program. A native Houstonian, she currently works in Berlin. She can be found at sommainguyen.com and on Twitter @sumeyegwen.