Eric Tran

A Patient’s Family Asks What Do I Know

In the ICU, my friend washes another friend’s
face with the serum and cream samples

they hoarded from Sephora. Nurses envy
his clean, virgin skin. Saintly, as if,

a week into our friendship, he hadn’t flexed
his mouth into a perfect O, ringed three fingers

around an imaginary dick to teach me the way
of efficient blowjobs. He made himself sick

on expensive gummies. He wouldn’t listen
to me complain about a Harajuku pencil case

I couldn’t afford. If you want it,
           then want it.
My gorgeous

boys and I left each other notes
with addresses of men we met online

just in case. Stuffed ourselves
into brushed out wigs just to heat up

nachos in the microwave.
                                 When I die

I know my loves will be dragged
up in sequins and blush, will cut the cake

with their contour. In the ICU,
my patient’s mom strokes his cheekbone

while he sleeps. You should have known him
before this.
She means before this but after

he returned to her after years of absence.
Of course my loves and I held secrets

from each other—what kind of family would we be
if we didn’t gift each other the space

to learn hunger and feast in our own language?
I don’t know enough of anything.

I don’t think as much as do, as much
as want and miss and admire. We hold each other

his mom and I, the morning we arrive
and he is gone. There is no rush,

I want to say to her. Our handsome
boys. We will know them again and again

when we’re reborn as trees joined at the trunks,
a set of summer winds on the nude beach,

           a handful of hard candies
           melted into rainbow.


Previously published in Aquifer: Florida Review Online



Ode to Bossy Bottoms

Marvel, popped up
           like tulips in snow.
                      Urgent bell
           in a boxing ring,
sharp as the lip
           of a rocks glass. Music
                      box of baubles
           that bites us back.
Lit, uncracked
           coil, tin pan
                      batter boiling over.
           Hello, sour cherry center
-fold. Good night,
           miracle text, book
                      shut around my finger,
           filled with the pressings
and beautiful names
           of all the things
                      that belong to you.


Previously published in Pleiades



Cadaver Lab

I figured it’d be months without laughter.
Understandably. On pelvic dissection day
my friend Amelia whispers I’m sorry,

girlfriend before starting the saw.
Another friend unknowingly holds

his cadaver’s hands during the biggest
incisions. Classmates I don’t even like
point out veins and nerves to spare me

hours of inhaling fat and fascia. Then
one group finds the penis pump we decides

yes he meant it as a surprise and the boys
fist bump his cold hands. Another group
shares their cadaver’s perfect pink polish,

another has fresh, unwrinkled ink
across her chest. Like tiny treasures

for us. Of course no one donates their body
without a sense of humor. Of course the body
is a gift. We admit on dissection days

we all leave hungry, specifically for chicken.
I’ve booked my calendar with sex

as if to practice how the blood flows
while it can. One boy I bring home
had a scar down his sternum, a souvenir

of a heart condition. He apologized
for it, even years later, like I minded

how it puckered at me. I imagined the lights
baring down on him, how those lucky hands
got to press against his skin.


Previously published in Aquifer: Florida Review Online



Angier, NC

I read about the winner
of the Harris Teeter gift card
and saw Angrier, North Carolina.
A mistake small enough
to slip in your pocket
in the checkout line.
           But I admit I’m angry.
Four of my friends died this year.
I would have more save-
the-dates for wakes than weddings
on my fridge if 30-year-olds did that.
You maybe see now
why I am angry
           my friend said he was scared
to die alone and I said he was silly
instead of let’s get married!
I admit my fist has tightened
around my steering wheel
as if to say I’m ok if I’m not
screaming, as if to say look
at all the control I have.
           I admit I’m so angry that I cry
at surprise proposals now.
I’m so angry I write down
everyone’s birthday.
So angry I demand unending hugs.
I’m lousy and bloated
with love. In anger I apologize

for not congratulating you soon,
Lisa M. of Angier, North Carolina.
I’m angry and I wish you the bounty
of double coupon day, of dented cans
sold for cheap. A slab of bloody roast
with the most perfect marble.
A flat of strawberries near spoil,
right when they’re sweetest.


Previously published as Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week



Eric Tran is a queer Vietnamese poet. His debut book of poetry The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer won the Autumn House Press Rising Writer Prize and was featured in The Rumpus Poetry Book Club and the Asian American Journalists Association-New York book club. He serves as poetry editor for Orison Press and a poetry reader for the Los Angeles Review. He has received awards and recognition from Prairie Schooner, New Delta Review, Best of the Net, and others. His work appears in RHINO, 32 Poems, the Missouri Review and elsewhere. He completed his MFA at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and is a resident physician in psychiatry in Asheville, NC.