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.