4 poems

by Shuchi & Justine Nguyen-Nguyen

Illustration by Maya Bjornson

published April 19, 2019

twenty years from today

                      , i still love you



with      intent        , i                 limb


my swollen gesture in your ventilator dreams,

spill white coffee till you metronome


in this room-like container


you trace bright outlines, i trace    thin skin moving

under hand [ka╔Żak]    



forehead zits rashscab your facets,


bones        too empty to mannequin


the only answers to this are familiar:

this is     my only outlet    you say     inward



we have a way        family of callously forgetting

looking straight at a sun too bright, crowning

from a murder of branches and no matter

how much our eyes      perch, sensation is always


a threshold sidling



if this today was your last,          would you       ?


unspool     behind steering wheels and almirahs





Maya Bjornson


[Written on the wall, upon entering the House]:

A different time, sitting at a sticky bar counter, not knowing which hour it is, remembering the disillusionment of a black and mild, thinking how I too was drawn to the ocean but how I will not see the ocean tonight. I don’t know what it would’ve been like to be a sailor, but I have been on a boat. I heard a story about a sailor who had every inch of his entire body tattooed, and everyone always immediately thinks about his dick, and what he must’ve gotten tattooed there, but I never think about that, I never think about his dick, no I just wonder what he has between his buttcheeks,  and what it would’ve been like to be the guy who had to hold the buttcheeks firmly apart so that the guy with the needle didn’t get messed up by the involuntary clenching that would necessarily have happened, because let’s be honest, that whole affair’s a three-person job, at least.

Ever used a hairbrush to scratch the back of your calves? it’s great, it’s great, my grandfather couldn’t get enough of it, had me scratch the back of his calves till they were bright red n raw, and then he’d turn over and make me do his shins.

Truly, we like to forget the thinness of membrane. We like to believe that substances hold consistent boundaries, that I know what shape this knife is—but truly, even concrete isn’t objective, and the heat from my fingertips is enough to swell the glass of a mirror.