one day i'll stop writing about my family

by Charlie Pham

a window to the sky is as a door to   a street but i'm seven and don't understand analogies. i learn to

write my name   ngoc: gem      grit the heavy dot between my teeth   grain of sand enclosed in shells

learn to write ha-noi: within river    song hong: river red     silt cracked open into a harvest    now it just

 drowns   every other year    each monsoon season seeps through walls     drips from ceiling into tin

bucket    a timer in our sleep    father strikes his match    over and over     air to ash    dragonflies at

eye-level   once i caught a dragonfly between my fingers and it bit me and i ripped it apart      shards of

wings glinting in the sun    promises of flight    a spine lay wasted


i draw my family   on the back of drug prescriptions and washing machine instruction manuals

faces in wax ghosting over fine prints       grandfather in sky blue   phosphenes and jellyfish: there's a

jellyfish that reverses its aging process to cheat death    father in white     cigarette smoke    chalky lungs

mother in red as in fire and fire doesn't leave a shadow it's source of light        i am there too but

scribbled in pencil   a silver afterthought     shadow whittled from a wick       my sisters small back-lit

figures   because as women we sculpt ourselves in the spaces between other people      daughter and

laughter one letter apart


a window to the sky is as a door to     heat pickled skin   cicadas that scream for a summer then die

their withered carcasses the ghost of july      electric lines burnt onto concrete     mother's insomnia

opening    like wood ears in the dark   an exit wound mistaken for an escape   at six i ran away     came

back for dinner   on my way home i saw clouds purpled like fresh bruises   a window to the sky        a

sun split and spilling through   a door to the river   a gem on the bed    a door to anywhere 

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