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Robin Bilardello for BuzzFeed News

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I lay in the dark & stretch the portrait

of a white woman across my face

until it splits. Beneath my bed, a catalogue

Of half-faced women sing me to sleep.

I’ll start with Amanda Elias

& how I thought, in order to be worthy

of desire, I had to wear her skin.

For four years I sat across from her

In the lunchroom, mimicked her posture

blinked when she did, became the mirror

so concerned with the rise & fall

of each one of her blemishes

I even took her to the winter formal

Watched, in the green glow of the gymnasium

at how I— she danced, chiffon willow

silk mystic. I watched how the boys held her

whispered a joke in her ear that made me laugh.

Stupid boys. StupidStupid boys.

I tell the man in the chatroom

I am a platter of soft curls. Send him her photo.

Crack an egg & remove the yolk.

He could marry me, you know? You don’t.

She would never. Once, after another heartbreak

she came to school with cuts on her wrist

& maybe my rage was out of concern— I was

after all, a great friend, unflinching in my kindness

or maybe I hated how ungrateful she was

or maybe I thought her technique was pathetic

Horizontal, barely breaking the first layer

or maybe I wanted a bigger opening

to attach a zipper, slip on her hand-me-downs

& somehow she must’ve known all along

her body was a dress I hung for motivation

the way she cried while I held her wrist

dabbing it with cold water, inspecting the damage

how she kept on saying, Sorry. Sorry.


Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in the Southern Indiana Review, Guernica, Ninth Letter, the Adroit Journal, Bat City Review, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. His second collection of poetry, Not Here, is forthcoming on Coffee House Press in 2018. He lives in Minneapolis.

Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in the Southern Indiana Review, Guernica, Ninth Letter, the Adroit Journal, Bat City Review, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. His second collection of poetry​, Not Here, ​is forthcoming on Coffee House Press in 2018. He lives in Minneapolis.

Contact Hieu Minh Nguyen at saeed.jones+PoetHieuMinhNguyen@buzzfeed.com.

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