Illustration by Kat Morgan


At the museum, I learn I am as tall as
some bombs (5′ 7”). The bombs
in question are dumb bombs, which means
they do not question gravity. They just
land where they land, bury what
they can. Placed in rows, they look something
like soldiers. Dumb soldiers. The placard explains
how all bombs used to be dumb, how the term
was coined retroactively by whoever made them
smart, taught them about lasers,
thermodynamics, critical theory, all the things
a contemporary bomb must know to
stay competitive in a growing field.
War was simpler when my dad lived here.
It was called Saigon then & the bombs were so dumb
they didn’t even know it. All they had to do
was their jobs. Christ. This place has no damn
A/C. The casualties are colorized, the tourists
are foreigner than me, & Lennon serenades us
on a loop, asking us every three-and-a-half minutes
to imagine no possessions. My phone dings.
Take museum with salt, texts Ba. It’s propaganda.
Fish sauce, I reply. I send him photos:
me standing in front of a nearly forgotten
apartment, an elementary school,
a wildlife sanctuary. I allow him to imagine me
happy. I tell him on Tuesday I fed mangoes
to a ten-year-old elephant. I do not tell him
it was recovering from a landmine blast.
I do not tell him his friend groped me last night
at the bar, & I definitely do not tell him I am
a communist. The world is a list of things
I keep from my father. Before I leave, I run
my hands over the shell of another
sleeping bomb. But I’m not the only one,
sings John. We’re dumb as hell. Full of hurt.

Steven Duong

Steven Duong is an American writer. A 2020-2021 Poetry Coalition Fellow with Kundiman and a 2021 @boneless_koi Fellow on Twitter, his poems have been featured in publications including AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, and The Adroit Journal. He lives in Boston with his loved ones.