I figured it'd be months without laughter.Understandably. On pelvic dissection daymy friend Amelia whispers, I'm sorry,girlfriend before starting the saw.Another friend unknowingly holdshis cadaver's hand during the biggestincisions. Classmates I don't even likepoint out veins and nerves to spare mehours of inhaling fat and fascia. Thenone group finds a penis pump and we decideyes, he meant it as a surprise and the boysfist-bump his cold hands. Another groupshares their cadaver's perfect pink polish,another has fresh, unwrinkled inkacross her chest. Like tiny treasuresfor us. Of course, the body is a gift.Of course, no one donates their bodywithout a sense of humor. On dissection dayswe all leave hungry, specifically for chicken.I book my calendar with hook-upsas if to practice how blood flowswhile it can. One boy I bring homehas a scar down his sternum, a souvenirof a heart condition. He apologizesyears after the incision healed, like the scarwasn't a lovely pink. I imagine the lightsbaring down on him, how so many luckyhands got to press against his skin.
“Cadaver Lab” from MOUTH, SUGAR, AND SMOKE: by Eric Tran.
Published by Diode Editions on July 1, 2022.
Copyright © Eric Tran.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Eric Tran is a queer Vietnamese poet and the author of Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke and The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer. He serves as an associate editor for Orison Books and a poetry reader for the Los Angeles Review. He has received awards and recognition from Prairie Schooner, New Delta Review, Best of the Net, and others. His work appears in RHINO, 32 Poems, the Missouri Review and elsewhere. He is an addiction psychiatry fellow at OHSU.
Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke howls and hungers. This collection, which won the Diode Editions 2021 Full-Length Book Prize, grieves a lover lost to addiction and also swims in the intoxication of desire. While the poems in Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke portray a yearning for intimacy, they create spaces to experience the duality of pleasure and mourning. Even when Tran writes under formal constraint, like the crown of sonnets, these poems struggle and break and, in doing so, explore queer and transformative ways of wanting and being wanted.
“Wounds, here, are not ornamental. Tenderness, here, is as restless and resilient as pain. The poems refuse transformation, superficial resolutions. Instead, the language—unsparing, striking—attends to addiction and death with grace, awe. The emotional complexity is mirrored structurally: the lines waterfall and halt, a sonnet crown jolts awake the mind, sentences simmer with lyrical momentum. Eric Tran’s second book is heart-rich and deftly written—the poems will stay with you long after you finish reading it.”
—Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine
"'I resent no one / the instinct to run' writes Eric Tran in his brave and beautiful Mouth, Sugar, and Smoke. But this is a poet who never runs. In fact, he pushes deep into the raw center of desire, admitting 'I’ve wanted your picked-at / scab, your broken voice through a / morning-night call.' This is a book of lust and brokenness, of 'suffering as hot / and clean as a pistol's mouth.' Whether attending an autopsy as part of his profession, or taking care of a friend in a room of '[u]sed needles / like a fist / of Pixy Stix,' this is a speaker who never turns away. This is a poet who brings 'scalpel / baring down onto bone.'"
—Aaron Smith, author of The Book of Daniel