Night Sky with Exit Wounds


Normally, I am rather put off by contemporary poetry. It overwhelms me and more often than not, I cannot relate to it or understand why the critics are so much in awe of a particular volume. At moments like these I wonder, is there something wrong with me? Or perhaps, am I not mature enough to read poetry?

Luckily, once in a blue moon I find poems which hit me hard, but in a positive way. I can sense the power of words in them, I contemplate the phrases for hours and come back, often multiple times, to my favorite parts. This was my experience with Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

Ocean Vuong was born close to Saigon in Vietnam. At the age of two, after spending a year in a refugee camp, he and his family came to the United States. In his poems, he writes about Vietnam, his confusion and isolation, the life of an immigrant and his search for love. And this he does in a way, which makes me come back over and over again.

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The song moving through the city like a widow.

A white ...    A white ...    I’m dreaming of a curtain of snow

falling from her shoulders.

Snow crackling against the window. Snow shredded

with gunfire. Red sky.

Snow on the tanks rolling over the city walls.

A helicopter lifting the living just out of reach.
The city so white it is ready for ink.

The radio saying run run run.

Milkflower petals on a black dog
like pieces of a girl’s dress.

May your days be merry and bright. She is saying
something neither of them can hear. The hotel rocks
beneath them. The bed a field of ice


Don’t worry, he says, as the first bomb brightens
their faces, my brothers have won the war

and tomorrow ...    

The lights go out.






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