A Poem by Paul Tran
From their forthcoming debut poetry collection All The Flowers Kneeling
I had a new form.
The new form said Name of survivor.
The new form renamed me.
The new form was a form of renaming.
Renaming gave me new form.
The new form said Relevant history.
History could be relevant.
History could be irrelevant.
History had a form.
History was a form of renaming.
The new form said Daily function.
Days could be measured by and a measurement of history.
Function could be defined by and a definition of history.
Both had a form.
Both were a form of renaming.
The new form said Identify triggers.
Click of the key turning in the lock of the door.
The new form said Identify recurring memories.
Repetition of one foot placed in front of the other.
The new form said Identify survival strategies.
Pulling the string I thought was for the light.
I marked Rationalizing.
Ceiling fan whirring like helicopter blades.
I marked Denial.
Odor of Heineken and pubic sweat.
I marked Fantasizing about the future.
Altar where my mother and I knelt before Ngài Quán Thế Âm.
I marked Obsessing about the past.
Fresh oranges arranged in a glass bowl.
I marked Compartmentalizing.
Hallway from the living room to the bedroom.
I marked Dissociating.
My bed stripped of sheets.
I marked Not eating.
Stack of high school yearbooks.
I marked Compulsive eating.
Gym uniform embroidered with my name.
I marked Not sleeping.
Clang of the Science Fair trophy hitting the floor.
I marked Compulsive sleeping.
Poem I wrote in fifth grade rhyming the word heart with the word start.
I marked Avoiding sex.
Photograph of me sitting next to my father.
I marked Compulsive sex.
Photograph of the ’93 Mazda MPV he reportedly turned into an ice cream truck.
I marked Humor.
Holes where the nails had been in the wall.
I marked Self-harm.
Wind through the window.
I marked Caregiving.
Alarm clock unplugged.
I marked Drug use.
The room emptied even of time.
I marked Staying busy.
The air as if on fire.
I marked Controlling others.
Pile of things to keep and pile of things to throw away.
I marked Perfectionism.
I marked Repeating abuse.
The decision to keep nothing.
I marked Suppression.
I marked Creating chaos.
Broom sweeping into the dustpan the need to hold on.
The new form said Ways this strategy is useful to me.
I chose a new start.
The new form said Ways this strategy is damaging to me.
I chose a new heart.
The new form said Some things I want to change are.
I left the field blank.
I left the field.
I left the blankness.
The blank field was my answer.