Self-Portrait as Justin Boening

Diana Khoi Nguyen


What can you tell a man at the margins?
            His bible bears his name.

What can you tell a man?
            You are one mind in the commune of one
            dropping his white robe for shredding.
            A womb-born creature that must fly
            as if frightened by its body.

Where did you go?
            With the woman in the elevator
            holding a cricket cage.

What did you collect?
            A beak peaking through a drum.
            Ossicles, old echoer. A stirrup is
            the smallest bone.

What did it feel like?
            Like this:         / / ////    /           / ///       // /        /   / //  /
                                    / / / //      // /      / /         / /        /           /           /          
                                    /// / /     / /    /  / / / /       // /  /       /   /     // /     /            

And you collected shadows?
            In the house my father tried to build.
            I'd grown up seeing America disarming others
            to protect itself.

 A sort of guardianship?
            The goose has always been
            a goose. It has never been a man
            whose fathers lie like mountain-ruins
            within him.

Do they give you grief?
            Pain outlives its vehicle. Illness comes
            like a veil in the attic cordoning off tender
            of the mind.

Did you cure yourself?
            America now arming itself. My wounds
            spoke to me. They said:
            “Kneel down beside your brothers on the floor.”

            And bray.