Listen:

after Hieu Minh Nguyen

i look to history to explain & this is my first mistake
when i say history i mean the stone
half-buried by the roadside has witnessed
more tragedy than a glass of a water. i look to the water
but all i see is dust. i look to the dust & all there is
is history. here’s a feather & well of blood
to write the labor movement across the fractal
back of infrastructure. here’s a father leaving home
to build railroads with his bare hands. write the laws
that claw the eyes from owls, that build a wall
between the river & the thirsty, that drag families
from one hell into the next. o this house of mine
was built by men & o i, a man sometimes, pass
through its acid chambers & leave out the backdoor
dust. when i say history i mean what lives in us,
i mean the faux gold chain around my neck,
the diseases passed from generation to generation
dating back to a time before christ, i mean any word
traced to its origin is a small boy begging for water.

Feature image by Andres Serrano. Blood and Semen V, 1990. Silver dye bleach photograph (Cibachrome), 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Karen B. Cohen, 1997.130.2. © Andres Serrano.

sam sax

sam sax is the author of Madness (Penguin, 2017), winner of the National Poetry Series; and bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, & the MacDowell Colony. He’s the two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion; author of four chapbooks; and winner of the Gulf Coast Prize, the Iowa Review Award, and the American Literary Award. His poems have appeared in BuzzFeed, The Nation, The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, Tin House, and other journals. He’s the poetry editor at BOAAT Press.