Staying Quiet

Once, a man named a thing beautiful & so we wore it,
buried it, turned it into currency. Somewhere, maybe here, maybe now,
I stand completely still until he looks in my direction. Sometimes I don’t
believe I exist until someone calls me beautiful. Sometimes
any warm thing will do. Sometimes it’s me, a warm thing in the low
light. Beautiful is what the man called me after he did
what he wanted with — I’m running out of ways to describe it
 — my body, my silence. Beautiful. Why, I ask, in order to love
yourself must you, first, be loved? A bone sucked clean
of its marrow. A trail of ants magnified into ash. & of course,
I’m asking no one. & of course, I know the answer.
Of course, I know it’s not me they’re looking for, the men, I mean.
& I wished he didn’t feel the need to speak, really wished — like me
 — he just kept quiet, but no, he had to speak, he had to say beautiful — 
& now, goddamnit, my body appears, trapped in the long tunnel
of a telescope. & now I am here attending the aftermath
of my own ruin, with nothing but beautiful to keep me company.
Maybe he meant the city beyond the window.
Maybe he was talking to himself. Maybe beautiful, as in good job,
as in look what I just did with my own two hands.

More Poems by Hieu Minh Nguyen