Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong

in Sai Gon, Viet Nam
October 14, 1988



Ocean Vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). A 2014 Ruth Lilly fellow, he has received honors from Poets House, The Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and a 2014 Pushcart Prize. His writings have been featured in the Kenyon Review, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Poetry, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he lives in New York City.

Average rating: 4.39 · 1,811 ratings · 233 reviews · 4 distinct works · Similar authors
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We Contain Multitudes

it was amazing 5.00 avg rating — 1 rating — published 2016
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“Rush-hour on the A rain. A blind man
staggers forth, his cane tapping lightly
own the aisle. He leans against the door,

raises a violin to chin, and says I’m sorry
to bother you, folks. But please. Just listen.
And it kills me, the word sorry. As if something like music

should be forgiven. He nuzzles into the wood like a lover,
inhales, and at the first slow stroke, the crescendo
seeps through our skin like warm water, we

who have nothing but destinations, who dream of light
but descend into the mouths of tunnels, searching.
Beads of sweat fall from his brow, making dark roses

on the instrument. His head swooning to each chord
exhaled through the hollow torso. The woman beside me
has put down her book, closed her eyes, the baby

has stopped crying, the cop has sat down, and I know
this train is too fast for dreaming, that these iron jaws
will always open to swallow a smile already lost.

How insufficient the memory, to fail before death.
how will hear these notes when the train slides
into the yard, the lights turned out, and the song

lingers with breaths rising from empty seats?
I know I am too human to praise what is fading.
But for now, I just want to listen as the train fills

completely with warm water, and we are all
swimming slowly toward the man with Mozart
flowing from his hands. I want nothing

but to put my fingers inside his mouth,
let that prayer hum through my veins.
I want crawl into the hole in his violin.

I want to sleep there
until my flesh
becomes music.”
Ocean Vuong

“The most beautiful part of your body
is where it’s headed. & remember,
loneliness is still time spent
with the world.”
Ocean Vuong

“And this is how we danced: with our mothers’
white dresses spilling from our feet, late August

turning our hands dark red. And this is how we loved:
a fifth of vodka and an afternoon in the attic, your fingers

sweeping though my hair—my hair a wildfire.
We covered our ears and your father’s tantrum turned

into heartbeats. When our lips touched the day closed
into a coffin. In the museum of the heart

there are two headless people building a burning house.
There was always the shotgun above the fireplace.

Always another hour to kill—only to beg some god
to give it back. If not the attic, the car. If not the car,

the dream. If not the boy, his clothes. If not alive,
put down the phone. Because the year is a distance

we’ve traveled in circles. Which is to say: this is how
we danced: alone in sleeping bodies. Which is to say:

This is how we loved: a knife on the tongue turning
into a tongue.”
Ocean Vuong

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