Worn lightly, my tongue is a passport riddled with RNA
Author: Quyen Nguyen
Published on: 9/6/2016 3:14:29 PM

real island, vietnam, end of last year

(voiceover only)

an island sort of reality, a vanishing sort of island, sun, ship, net, enter an indefinite wait, the sand castles a young boy erects quickly dissolve, into the deep they evanesce, his tiny hands grasp for a familiar aquatic feeling, faint rationality in his bleu I & III, phytoplanktons, diaphanous mobiles


(conventional text)

Between the resort pool and the sea, the bartender wears a black vest, a bit too tight. Her cystic acnes are severe. She seems inexperienced. She overdoes the salt. She blushes. I want to ask if she comes from this place, whether she intends to leave this thatched-roof bamboo bar, this national coastline, this character-building quiet. But it is too hot to ask. I draw a greasy bald head on the table with the sweat off my glass.


(montage, sound of engines and baby – muffled for underwater portions)

the boy starts crying

unseen engines hum in succession

down dogs and a child on the shore

or submerged gelatinous blobs and photographic grains

no sun in the lower world

fuzzy lighting, fuzzy freedom, fuzzy patience

I close my eyes and think of benjamin in the scuba suit, and selkies,

bitters in my mouth 



I sat here with her once. A friend for the weekend, a persistent painter-cum-performance-artist-activist, Vietnamese then but American now. To unpack that would require a new poem. She was frowning, not out of displeasure but concentration. She was squinting at a screen. So it was, our egos walked two parallel lines like two long bodies on damp towels, little black incisions on the beach. Rhymed and distanced. Bitters in her mouth. Her bulging head was ¾ hair ¼ face. A face semi adolescent semi jaded. We lay facing the sea with our legs crossed.


(final montage, voiceover, sound of engines and baby’s first word – muffled for underwater portions)

the boy falls asleep in the swash zone, commencement, convocation, “life.”, loving, sneezing, dying, one after another the engines hum, this afternoon he will say his first word

down here, this blue, up there, mostly empty, but it does something to me, captures me completely, the entire drama of choice doused in blue, a dreamscape in calamity and calm, I long for small equilibriums

- Quyên Nguyễn

- photo by Nikolaj Svennevig