[Poetry] Reasons for Staying, By Ocean Vuong | Harper's Magazine

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[Poetry]

Reasons for Staying

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The October leaves coming down, as if called.

Morning fog through the wild rye beyond the train tracks.

A cigarette. A good sweater. On the sagging porch. While the family sleeps.

That I woke at all & the hawk up there thought nothing of its wings.

That I snuck onto the page while the guards were shit-faced on codeine.

That I read my books by the light of riot fire.

That my best words came farthest from myself & it’s awesome.

That you can blow a man & your voice speaks through his voice.

Like Jonah through the whale.

Because a blade of brown rye, multiplied by thousands, makes a purple field.

Because this mess I made I made with love.

Because they came into my life, my brothers, like something poured.

Because crying, believe it or not, did wonders.

Because my uncle never killed himself—but simply died, on purpose.

Because I made a promise.

That the McDonald’s arch, glimpsed from the 2 am rehab window, was enough.

That mercy is small but the earth is smaller.

Summer rain hitting Peter’s bare shoulders.

Because I stopped apologizing myself toward visibility.

Because this body is my last address.

The moment just before morning, like right now, when it’s blood-blue & the terror incumbent.

Because the sound of bike spokes heading home at dawn is unbearable.

Because the hills keep burning in California.

Through red smoke, singing. Through the singing, an exit.

Because only music rhymes with music.

The words I’ve yet to use: Timothy grass, Jeffrey pine, celloing, cocksure, light-lusty, midnight-green, gentled, water-thin, lord (as verb), russet, pewter, lobotomy.

The night’s worth of dust on his upper lip.

Barnjoy on the cusp of winter.

The broken piano under a bridge in Windsor that sounds like footsteps when you play it.

The Sharpied sign outside the foreclosed house: seeking push mower. please call kayla.

The train whistle heard through an open window after a nightmare.

Sleeping in the back seat, leaving the town that broke me, intact.

Early snow falling from a clear, blushed sky.

As if called.

 is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.



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