Ode to the Pubic Hair Stuck in My Throat

Hieu Minh Nguyen

O diligent survivor
          clinging
to the edge
of a chasm.Little tickle.
          Little wire
          picking open
the doors
illuminating the corners
of my mouth
I did not know
could swell with touch.Bless touch, I guess
its round noise.O little brown figure
          coiling
in the middle
of that soft pink
alley
          how lonely
          it must be
to come from desire
          but end
          where light ends.Son of the floorless
                      prayer
son of the O horizon
remind me
what it’s like to speak
without
          a white man
flickering in my throat.O small equator
          making
every story
a ruined portrait.
Bless the fault linebeyond my reach
          little fracture
in my speech.
Little secret          I keep
trying to cough up
but instead
cause my mother
          to raise
her small hands
to my forehead.
          Con nóng?          Bless also
my mother
her perfect temperature
her concern
the only language
          we have
to say
sorry.Bless language
its impossible walls
its flexible agony
          a thin line
I keep tripping over.O little thread
undoing
          the hem
of my body—but wait, bless also
          my body
how it rejects
the unfamiliar
          convulsing
          conversing
with itself
          excising
          evicting
          cutting down
the rope
bridge
          rolling
the debris
into a question
mark on my tongue.

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Hieu Minh Nguyen

Hieu Minh Nguyen was born in 1991, a child of Vietnamese immigrants, his debut collection of poetry, This Way to the Sugar, was a finalist for both the MN Book Awards and the Lambda Literary Awards. Nguyen has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Kundiman, the Vermont Studio Center, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Loft Literary Center. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Offing, BuzzFeed, The Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis.

Not Here is a flight plan for escape and a map for navigating home; a queer Vietnamese American body in confrontation with whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia; and a big beating heart of a book. Nguyen’s poems ache with loneliness and desire and the giddy terrors of allowing yourself to hope for love, and revel in moments of connection achieved.

“I’m always struck by Hieu’s balance of tenderness in his poems, the way that he holds a thin knife to both humor and trauma, turning one so easily into another.”
NBC News

“Nguyen attempts a courageous exorcism of shame in his brilliant and disquieting second collection, exposing the baggage of living as a queer person of color in a white-supremacist, classist, heteronormative society. . . . Nguyen communicates with stunning clarity the ambivalence of shame, how it can commandeer one’s life and become almost a comfort.”
— Publisher’s Weekly

“[V]ery few could do what Nguyen has done.”
— New York Times

“Nguyen’s voice feels simultaneously young and ageless, uncertain and wise. His poems are pitched somewhere between page and stage, as if said aloud right into your ear.”
NPR

“Nguyen, a queer Vietnamese-American, confronts whiteness, trauma, family, and nostalgia in poems that ache with loneliness, desire, and the giddy terrors of hoping for love.”
— Publishers Weekly

“The worlds Nguyen summons and dismisses in these poems are mesmerizing, like the visions of a sorcerer, but not because they’re magical—because they’re real. All of them animated by a wild wit that feels like it could throw a car like a baseball. I’ve been waiting for this book, and if you’ve ever read one of these, you probably have been too—this is an essential debut. Not Here is here.”
— Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night

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