Ocean Vuong Thinks You are Perfect

In a recent New Yorker, we found ourselves moved and boggled by the poem Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong, as though its language were working on us like a painting or a subtle medicine.

We looked up the poet Ocean Vuong. His bio reads: Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently resides in New York City. He thinks you’re perfect.

We found the stanza, above, in a very long poem of his, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and on his tumblr, his answer to a stranger asking him to explain one of his poems: 

I am, unfortunately, not good at explaining my own poems. But I will say that you should trust your own reading. Whatever you’ve taken from the work is always always always the right answer–the perfect answer. Your own personal experience of the poem is equally as valuable and unique as my writing it.

It seems to us essential advice for anyone wading into poetry, which works in mysterious ways.

ASDF/commissioned by ROLU

ASDF/commissioned by ROLU

We’ve read Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong many times now, realizing that we are just beginning, after all these years, to understand the breadth of poetry.

Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong

Ocean, don’t be afraid.

The end of the road is so far ahead

it is already behind us.

Don’t worry. Your father is only your father

until one of you forgets. Like how the spine

won’t remember its wings

no matter how many times our knees

kiss the pavement. Ocean,

are you listening? The most beautiful part

of your body is wherever

your mother’s shadow falls.

Here’s the house with childhood

whittled down to a single red tripwire.

Don’t worry. Just call it horizon

& you’ll never reach it.

Here’s today. Jump. I promise it’s not

a lifeboat. Here’s the man

whose arms are wide enough to gather

your leaving. & here the moment,

just after the lights go out, when you can still see

the faint torch between his legs.

How you use it again & again

to find your own hands.

You asked for a second chance

& are given a mouth to empty into.

Don’t be afraid, the gunfire

is only the sound of people

trying to live a little longer. Ocean. Ocean,

get up. The most beautiful part of your body

is where it’s headed. & remember,

loneliness is still time spent

with the world. Here’s

the room with everyone in it.

Your dead friends passing

through you like wind

through a wind chime. Here’s a desk

with the gimp leg & a brick

to make it last. Yes, here’s a room

so warm & blood-close,

I swear, you will wake—

& mistake these walls

for skin.

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