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Three Poems by Joshua Nguyen

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Kaleidoscoping Around The Haibun Of The Last Can Of SPAM

Over the horizon, xenophobia is a blue eye peeking from the other side of aisle nine. Overcasting of gray windows. The geometry of the last can of SPAM— with its plush yellow font— blooms forth a meal-prep of solitude. A void opens on aisle ten. There, beaming with the shimmer of lukewarm Shiner Bock clasped between its fingers, a bear, who, when provoked, doesn’t resemble the attitude of the Charmin toilet paper bear. In fact, the bear with the beer is scratching aimlessly in the air, squatting on a kiosk of Easter candies.

Where have they gone? The

bear yowls. Where have all my rolls

of family gone?

To Asian Squat or Not?

is to ask whether it’s worth to suffer

the slings & arrows of broken bodies

trying to claw at whatever nutrition

your skin provides.

Squat &


in the corner of the abandoned

gym riddled of bloodied

walls fingerpainted with THERE IS NO AFTER



Channel your toes in Vietnamese roots.

Keep your ankles nimble, your achilles

hidden with leather.

How deep is your

lunge? Creep forward,

crab walk into the abandoned

medical supply closet. Aspirin, gauze, nail clipper.

The lower your head,

the lower your body,

the less likely

you’ll be punched

in your yellow face.

Rest Day: Coffee / Coffee / Love / Love

Your hands, brown-

stained filter of kindness.

Rush of caffeine sleuthing

its way in the brain— a secret

agent imposter passing

as adenosine antagonist.

Lock-&-key enzyme

to the heart’s capillaries:

signals to the biome

of your gut to wake up

& smell the humid cobblestone,

rectum sphincter relaxing while the cardinal

worms along the Magnolia branch,

pacing back & forth

waiting for their fohawked love

to join. Before you clinch

your butt, & before the bathroom

break, & before the coffee cools

& new acids are produced,

& before the bluebirds bicker

on which blueberry is theirs or almond or soy or oat,

we freeze our ground eyes

to each other. Ankles humid,

caressing, breathing.

I would love you with a caffeine deficit,

still with a slug in my step, sure,

but I’d rather love you with a cup,

with my pores

unclogged, open to your generous

frothing of heart murmurations,

latte dedications, & our bodies—

an aubade, an aubade, an aubade.

Joshua Nguyen is the author of Come Clean (University of Wisconsin Press), winner of the 2021 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, the 2021 Writers' League of Texas Discovery Award, and the 2022 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Poetry Award. He is also the author of the chapbook, American Lục Bát for My Mother (Bull City Press, 2021). He is a PhD student at The University of Mississippi, where he also received his MFA.

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