I Want Nothing

to do with my mother’s
sadness, her mouth:
a pockmark on every door
that opens onto a memorial scene, 
her mouth: the beginning
of traffic. Odd to think
of it as an ugly and frequent
song on the radio,
a small bird shitting
and dying in my hands.
He is dead, she says,
over and over again,
except in Vietnamese,
which to me doesn’t sound
as tragic—a little uglier,
maybe, but less tragic,
for sure. The house phone
on her lap sings its dead
hum into the static air
of our living room. Who?
Who? I ask. I shake her
shoulders, Who?
When she finally looks
at me through the slit
of her black bangs,
she tells me about the man
she would have married
if she stayed in Vietnam,
and my posture straightens,
and my eyes roll, and I am 
relieved at the absence
of my own grief, and I hate him, 
this man, this dead man
that won’t stay gone
now that he’s gone
for good, now that he has built
this house of meat to rot
and stew on the sunniest days, 
now that he fills the marrow
in each bone of my mother’s regret. 
When she thinks of love 
either she’s a widow or divorced, 
and I believed for a while
that regret is leaving
the burning house 
empty-handed, but he is
already ash, and I tell her
she made the right choice, 
which is funny, cause I hate
my father, and often forget
that he’s still alive.

From This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014) by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Copyright © 2014 by Hieu Minh Nguyen. Used with the permission of the author.