In the end, a girl’s name

by Iris Nguyễn


is whatever sound she plucks
from the throats of her people,
meaning mine has been soft
smile, androgyne, gift unopened, wound,
and Hồng-Cơ is just the one I kept—
bố’s gift, foundation, meaning my name is forever
the weight of home. When I visit
mẹ calls me cưng, meaning I have no way of knowing
if she still, by honey, means son.
In her voice, stone towers unfurl into towels,
wolves curl in my arms, woof gently,
and on my mirrorless days
this, at least, is a womanhood
that can’t be taken—my body,
growing a throat that remembers
how her mother’s words sound melting
to sweetness, guided by the habits of our tongue. At An’s
engagement party, I find a flower in bố’s mouth, keep it
in a jar by the windowsill, make it a new name—
a daughter, blooming in the house I’ve left behind.


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