Newton’s First Law of Motion
There’s a photograph
of us hanging
in the kitchen—
Crisp denim shirt
I blow out
two .99 store
A wish that begins
Stop Stop Stop—
of the plane
out of that divided country
where the woman
before he loved
in a city
whose real name
only its exiled
of kapok trees—
Kingdom without kings—
I drag the plane’s motor
its internal spring
in a thermobaric
from his lungs—
His five kids—
to devour each other—
I release it—
An object in motion
stays in motion—
The past driving us
at the same speed—
Unless acted upon
by an unbalanced
The plane soars
across the table
into my mother’s lap—
Because I’m my mother’s son, I leave the arrow
in my throbbing heart. What kills me keeps me
alive. I forgive nothing, forget nothing. Revenge,
no matter how or when, is my only satisfaction.
Consider a glass saucer of apple cider vinegar
on the table overnight, a fleet of drowned fruit
flies in the morning. Consider my father’s face
snipped from photographs, smothered without
protest in a grocery bag. Consider my mother
and I cleaning our apartment early each Sunday,
My Immortal on the radio, animating the dead
space between us, nerve-pinching silence within
which we attend to our lives, reorganizing this
museum of decadent suffering, this performance
of union. Consider us scrubbing the musk of sleep
from every sheet, sweeping away our footsteps,
stretching plastic over the couch, the computer,
shining the fancy plates we never use but aspire to
as though our immaculate illusion redeems the filth
of being human, our attempts to outlast our fate
by forcing evidence of our existence on the world.
Consider existence an underestimated vengeance.
This is why, betrayed by her country, by everyone
she knows, her only child hoping to be adopted
by a white family, to be a little white girl or boy
so spotless that nobody dares to foul it, my mother
denies everything afflicting her its brutal power
by exterminating her attachments like roaches.
Consider her obsessive sanitation not a symptom
but a skill set of expulsion: how she disappears
blood from blade, my body splayed like a headless
Barbie on the bathroom floor, wrists slashed into
mouths shouting what I couldn’t, what I’m told
didn’t ever occur. Consider how she beats me
straight with a snakeskin belt, says I’m nothing
like my father because I belong to a war-woman,
and that’s love: possession, my mother preparing
me for victory the way our ancestors drilled iron-
tipped spikes into the ancient Bạch Đằng River,
skewering Southern Han attackers like thịt nướng,
their blue carcasses pruning in low tides, ending
a thousand years of domination, the Long Eclipse.
Farewell with Drones & Fried Chicken
He doesn’t eat,
the Trường Sơn Trail,
ruled by another
Even abstinence is deadly.
with Dr. Pepper
and a biscuit.
To nourish is also to neglect.
My father drops me off
at Kensington Park
with box of KFC leftovers.
The red light.
I didn’t know
it was the last time
I’d ever see him.
I didn’t know
it hurts being seen.
Paul Tran is the Poet In Residence at Urban Word NYC. Their work appears in Prairie Schooner, MTV, RHINO, which gave them an Editor's Prize, and elsewhere. Paul is the first Asian American in almost twenty years to represent the Nuyorican Poets Cafe at the National Poetry Slam and Individual World Poetry Slam, where they placed Top 10.