2 poemas de Hieu Minh Nguyen


Standing in front of a mirror, my mother tells me she is ugly
says the medication is making her fat. I laugh & walk her
back to the bed. My mother tells me she is ugly in the same voice
she used to say no woman could love you & I watch her
pull at her body & it is mine. My heavy breast.
My disappointing shape. She asks for a bowl of plain broth
& it becomes the cup of vinegar she would pour down my throat.
Everyday after school, I would kneel before her.
I would remove my clothes & ask her to mark the progress.
It’s important that I mention, I truly wanted to be beautiful
for her. In my dreams I am thin & if not thin, something better.
I tell my mother she is still beautiful & she laughs. The room fills
with flies. They gather in the shape of a small boy. They lead her
back to the mirror, but my reflection is still there.


I met my brother once
in a small village in Vietnam
who, upon meeting me
grabbed my small arm
& dragged me into the woods
behind his house
where a group of men
all wearing our father's face
stood in a circle, cheering
while the two roosters
whose beaks had barbed hooks
taped to them, pecked
& clawed each other open
until the mess of bloodied feathers
were replaced by two clean birds
one, my brother's. The other
a man's, who, I am told is deaf
but vicious. He told me
our father calls him long distance
from America, every week.
I can't help but wonder how
they tell the roosters apart
since the blood has turned their feathers
the same shade of burgundy.
I told him how our father, who lives
only three mile away from me
avoids making eye-contact at supermarkets.
I can tell this made him happy.
Though, he didn't cheer
when the crowd cheered, when one rooster
fell to the dirt with a gash in its neck
I knew he was the winner
the way he lowered his head to hide
his smile, how he looked at me
then snatched his earnings
from the vicious man's hands.
I learned what it was like to be a brother
by watching the roosters
& how, at first, the air was calm
until they were introduced
& then they knew:
there could only be one.