Ode to the Pubic Hair Stuck in My Throat
O diligent survivor
to the edge
of a chasm.Little tickle.
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
in the middle
of that soft pink
it must be
to come from desire
where light ends.Son of the floorless
son of the O horizon
what it’s like to speak
a white man
flickering in my throat.O small equator
a ruined portrait.
Bless the fault linebeyond my reach
in my speech.
Little secret I keep
trying to cough up
cause my mother
her small hands
to my forehead.
Con nóng? Bless also
her perfect temperature
the only language
its impossible walls
its flexible agony
a thin line
I keep tripping over.O little thread
of my body—but wait, bless also
how it rejects
into a question
mark on my tongue.
“Ode to the Pubic Hair Stick in My Throat” is used by permission from Not Here (Coffee House Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by 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.”
“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