Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
I know you see me in his garage opposite
your hot pink cathedral. He reduces me
to a toothless mouth, a void, and I begin
to understand you. There’s nothing we won’t
do to each other, I discover, as he seals me
with his weight: the weight of generations
just like him. I shut my eyes, and still
he compels me to look. So I look. I take
everything in. His mind at work, fired by
thought, like glass being shaped in a furnace,
cooked and cooled until it hardened, its core
cut by curiosity. He and I were then made
for each other by our instinct to live, though
living now hurts me more than death ever could.
There are many ways to die, you remind me,
pointing towards your scorched heart, lance-
pierced and thorn-leashed, as I think I’m dying,
sensation abandoning then shocking my body,
consciousness suddenly paralyzing then gone,
and this isn’t it. That’s why it feels worse.
There’s a toll to continue. Unlike you, I can’t
say Gabriel came to me. I have no conceivable
evidence. My father finishes and turns on
the television. Paris by Night 46: Châu Ngọc
and Phương Vy slurring Patti LaBelle’s Lady
Marmalade. Even the winter air invades me.
Paul Tran is poetry editor at The Offing and Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis. Their work appears in The New Yorker, POETRY, and elsewhere. They are the first Asian American since 1993 and first transgender poet to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
How would I know / when I’m empty and quiet like breath?
Historian Gerald Horne has developed a grand theory of U.S. history as a series of devastating backlashes to progress—right down to the present day.
Reflecting on three monumental works of modernism—James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—a hundred years on.