I am learning a lesson that I cannot welcome
about arteries and lungs
and all the things that can go wrong.
What went wrong yesterday was my ceiling fell in
and then the desk broke.
It would have been symbolic for go home
but symbols are not excuses.
And the day before, and for many days before that one,
I had been learning about brothers and fathers,
how they can make jokes with machines beeping in the background,
even while the blood is being drawn,
and each breath measured.
I can’t call the right people to fix the ceiling because
how can I possibly think about that when I am busy
learning for the first time about my aunt,
the ugly one who snapped chickens’ necks,
who was a prostitute?
I put books under the desk to prop it back up
so that everything will look like it’s supposed to
while I am looking out my window,
my mind bending back toward home
like a leaf toward light.
I can hear the burrowing owls,
my father’s raspy, wet breath,
and my own whisper too. I say go gently.
What use am I pushing against it, against his heart?
As if I stood a chance against a desk, a ceiling,
or any real thing.
About This Unit: Poems on Family and Finding Other Lines of Symmetry
THU ANH NGUYEN is a poet whose poetry has been featured in NPR’s “Social Distance” poem for the community, Cider Press Review, Crab Orchard Review, Salt River Review, 3Elements, Connections, and RapGenius. The author’s poems were also named as a semi-finalist for the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize for the Southern Humanities Review. She was honored with a writing residency with The Inner Loop Poetry Series in Washington, D.C. She also writes about equity, justice, and community through literacy. Her essays on the importance of reading diverse literature have been featured in Literacy Today.