autopsy of war

Kimberly Nguyen

war                i am                trying to run from you                i burn sage                               trying
to banish you                but the smoke curdles at the sight of you

i went to therapy                and laid on the operating table                          when my therapist
opened me up                she saw tobacco stains on all my organs                we rummaged
for a part of me                          you hadn’t smoked out             we defused land mines
you had buried and forgotten                and all that remained of me was           a skeleton

i put my organs in jars on a shelf           and i walk past them every morning                what is grief
but a body that cannot be laid to rest                jars on life support                     a skeleton
in the closet                what is grief      but the cruelty           dust buries                       everything

i cannot bear to

war                i am                because you were                   who am i             if you are not
you have beaten all of my utterances              into ghost notes           but i can’t play the song
without them                will i always be                a placeholder                               for a silence
will i always be                          bones           collecting dust

war                to throw the jars away              i must begin to acknowledge their loss
i must perform my own autopsy           i don’t want to keep my organs here      but i don’t want to let
my organs go                what i really want is whole organs      undamaged organs      grief      is not
the needle sewing my hollow body back up                     but each stitch i keep ripping out        war
you are my cause of death        and if i am a ghost of you            then i am my cause of death
and whose fault is that but mine           whose fault is that but yours

Kimberly Nguyen is an emerging Vietnamese-American poet originally from Omaha, NE but currently living in New York City. She is a recent graduate of Vassar College, where she was a recipient of a Beatrice Daw Brown Prize for Poetry. Her work can be found in perhappened mag, Hobart, Muzzle Magazine, and others. She is currently an Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry at PEN America. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @knguyenpoetry.

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