After Hanif Abdurraqib and Dorothy Chan
O friend—narcissist that I am, I see
you for what we are. Two lonely little gods.
Which is to say, we god small things alone.
Our angers are brief, our griefs are angry, and here
we sit, batting our paws again and again
at what we cannot hold, staring it down,
making it holy. Holy the mint leaves. Holy
the bean sprouts. Holy the hole in the wall and the
auntie behind it cooking lunch & dinner
specials for white strangers, each of them holy
too because in this country there is no difference
between waving and beckoning. Every greeting
is a business venture. All luck is good luck.
A coin in the hand is worth ten in the fountain
and we know how this country coins us. It gilds
our plastic bodies, gold the most lawless
yellow. To mint ourselves new is to make ourselves
tender, to hatch fresh names for what ails us
as the koi behind the shop does for the pennies
strangling its pondwater. Choke stars. The bad shine.
My ungentle sunken lovers. You who bleed
my blood. I could wax on, but as you know, red-
collared comrade, face beat for the gods, there’s bank
to be made, red envelopes to gut like fish.
See you when the rent is paid. Until then, please
name me in your prayers. O friend—coin me
lucky. Hustle me back to the hands of he who
would drown me in the bodies of my friends.
Steven Duong is an American poet currently residing in Shanghai as a 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, conducting a yearlong international writing project titled “Freshwater Fish and the Poetry of Containment.” The recipient of 2017 and 2019 Academy of American Poets prizes, his poems are featured or forthcoming in publications such as Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Poets.org, Pleiades, Passages North, Salt Hill, and The Shallow Ends. Follow him on twitter @bonelesskoi or on stevenduongwrites.com.