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.
sam sax is a 2015 NEA Fellow and finalist for the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He’s also a poetry fellow at the Michener Center for Writers, where he serves as the editor-in-chief of Bat City Review. He’s a two-time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion & author of the chapbooks A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters (Button Poetry, 2014) + sad boy / detective (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) + All the Rage (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016). His poems are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Ploughshares, PEN Poetry Series, Poetry Magazine, + other journals.
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.
Click on the image to enlarge.