Duy Quang Mai


Window, myrtle sprigs punctuate sky
& my hands touch myself
back into history. Always rooms to leave
yourself behind. To leave yourself into.
Near the street’s end, a plywood boat stranded.
I run my fingers through it
& windless. The shape of breathing,
of light, spilling everywhere,
carving with moths. He was there,
rustlike and possible.
I reach for everything but the words
he left behind. I reached
and a sparrow rustled
through my window. Then,
somewhere, a bullet is leaving the gun’s
mouth, thinking it is free.
I, too, am free. I, too, am free
to run, childlike, towards
him, towards light and sentences:
their shapes of a door.



What if
                    after Jericho Brown

A hand deadlocked towards blueness.
It mothers the past tense into tomorrow.

                    The past tense of tomorrow spelled a mother, waiting.
                    Her son’s locks of hair drifting on the floorboards.

Hair frayed, head touching floorboards,
I once listened to a sparrow lurching, eyes closed.

                    Inside my half-closed iris, the sparrow lurched.
                    Wingbeats and daylight, the animal wakes me home.

Daylight, too, is an animal waking home.
Under it I slept, and the hand of my first love.

                    Forgive me, the hand of my first heart.
                    It’s never meant to hold, the first place.

In the first place, a man is holding an axe beside a tree.
His hand deadlocked towards blueness.


Duy Quang Mai is from Hanoi, Vietnam. His poems have been published or are forthcoming from American Poetry Review, AAWW, Waxwing, among others. He is the author of the chapbook Journals to (Story Factory, 2019). More of his work can be found at duyquangmai.com