Generational Trauma

Photo by McKenna Phillips on Unsplash.

After Ocean Vuong’s “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong”

You’re never alone when you look in the mirror.
Your dad will always be your dad until one
of you forgets. Your mom will always be
your mom until you see her sun spots
as your own, her wrinkles become your defining features
and a silver ghost creeps from behind the back of your head
through a tangled knot in your thinning hair
until memories overlap,

Bố’s, Mẹ’s, yours –
______responding in a foreign language in your hometown
__________________________the soft ripples of the moon’s coldness
____________the cackling of white onions in spaghetti
________________laundry in cold showers
swimming lessons to make shore
__________bike rides for sugarcane juice
lying on the carpet watching the Sound of Music in theaters
__________________the stereo playing Beatle records
______a shipyard of cardboard boxes

Police sirens or city alarms trigger sweat behind your knees. You scratch
until you break skin. Blood on your hands, you can’t tell if they’re
______the same hands that buried themselves in the hole in your chest,
______the hands that wiped hanging tears from dry eyes,
______hands suppressing screams escaping a shaking body,

______or hands to hold you while you sit still in the space between return and the next line.


Thi Nguyen is an emerging poet, California native, born from Vietnamese refugees in San Jose, and is currently living in Los Angeles. Thi is in her final year at University of New Orleans, pursuing an online MFA in creative writing, focusing on poetry. She loves coffee and takes it with a splash of oat milk. Her recent interview with Marilyn Chin, regarding her latest book, Sage, can be read on Poetry Society of America.


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