Winter 2016 - Poetry

Poetry

Hieu Minh Nguyen

 

White Boy Time Machine: Safety Tips

i understand no one / wants to be remembered / at their twenty-year high school reunion / as the guy who cut off the tips of his fingers / trying to dissect a fetal pig / i really wish i could help / everyone / who asked / for winning lottery numbers / or a second chance / at something better / than a fully furnished patio / but no matter how many times i've tried / the town still burns / unlike a wound / or fire, time needs no tending / cause the flames will come / even if it doesn't come / from your hands / are we done here / the machine asks, while buttoning its pants / the red metal / of its hips / cooling / near a river / i see my grandfather / for the first time / he is not a photograph / i want to fall into / his hands / my favorite story / begins with / let me remember / i cannot / stop him from disappearing / into the wall / of smoke / i don't know / how much ruin / i can drag through time / how much ash can fill / a bed before history / claims my name / let me tell you the problem / with history / somewhere somewhere someone wants you / gone / don't you think i know / the rules / fasten your seat belt / keep your arms inside / the white boy's throat / a light jacket for the rain

 

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White Boy Time Machine: Test Run

I go back, only to find the rest of the body.
Her hands, stowed away. Always with me.
Always tracing my gums. Even when I sleep—
especially when I sleep, they're there
tapping my teeth. It is the machine
that pulls me into the old elementary school
by my collar. It is the machine that leads me
through the halls, tracking her scent.
Walls of glass. Walls of skin stretched
til translucent—except, of course, her office.
Opaque organ in a ghost body. A shadow
pacing back & forth under the door.
I want to be a braver kind of meat
to say, show me her face & mean it
but how long have I prepared for the dragon
only to run in the other direction. I need to explain
why. It's important that I talk about her hands
again—don't be silly, I don't love them
but I have cared for them—trimming the nails
polishing each chipped face, just so they stay the same.
I need them to stay the same. Maybe if I bring them
to her unchanged, she'll take them back.
Maybe if I learn her face, each digit will disappear.
If I open this door, if I fill the empty spaces
if the hands leave & become a body
who will ever touch me again?

 

 

 

 

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Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Southern Indiana Review, The Journal, Devil's Lake, The Paris-American, Vinyl Poetry, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Minneapolis.

 

 

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.