Back to Issue Thirty-Six

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
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
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
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


Skinny Dipping



some boys
have ghosted
from this high

but I wanna
go down on you

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

to live & die alone
with cum on

your tongue
to jump from
anywhere & make it

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 lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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