Friday May 24

Nguyen Headshot Diana Khoi Nguyen’s debut collection, Ghost Of (Omnidawn, 2018), was selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn Open Contest. In addition to winning the 92Y "Discovery" / Boston Review Poetry Contest, she is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Denver. Her website can be found here.


from After the Fact


                                              woman’s hands holding a bowl beneath a stream of tap water

                                               jade bracelet slipping from the crease in her forearm to her wrist

     how does a human arm work what are the names of the bones how many bones

     these bones of mine

     will it work parts of a robotic arm still work

     what parts of the arm do pushups work

it’s a complex particularly inarticulate condition             perhaps because K feels
I won’t believe her she won’t believe me yet                   she’s spontaneous I’m
sincerely watching

I don’t need to question her story                     I don’t need to question the reality

every video is a document

                                                                                   we simply revel
                                                                                   in movement
     video conveys truth if we decide it does
     simply reveal in the moment                                   moving from the world around us
                                                                                               my hand like a clasp at her back
                                                                                               we are moving away from
           moving toward each other into these other         wor(l)d(s) real(m)(s)
                                                                      finite pleasure
                                               infinite possibility

                                                                                               in the pleasure moving
video a blank video released on video
video, videre, vidi, visus/-a/-um to see to seem (passive)

                       we see all kinds of interactions
                       our bodies document
                       our human document

                                                           I walk toward the grey waves turning back only once

                                                           O watches me and starts after (he was watching was he

always watching me children do at that age the world pours into them into their open record)

                                                           he watches and starts after me

                                                           our shoulder blades sharply rise and fall          

     out of frame D asks “tell me the boy who makes you feel”

                                               (should I tell you how this boy makes me feel)

           what could cause shoulder blade pain
           what causes pain between
           what does it mean when you have pain between your shoulder blades
           why do I have a pain in my should
           what does the scapula do how many scapula bones

                       blade or wing bone always connected or paired

videos convey truth if we decide they do
                                               escort   together                       ways

                                                            O watches and starts our blades rise and fall
video calls on us to believe

                                                                                   accept this world as actual

           copy and original are just strings in different locations
           I exist of strands of him and her O exists of strands of him and her       O exists
           we are strands in different locations different directions

video calls us to                                               this world we inhabit and share
                                                                                   accept it as actual
                       we take pleasure not just from document but direction as well

                                                            he runs back toward the shore

                                                           wings outstretched against the wind I follow after

                                                           he looks back he is looking he looks

                                                           he looks to see if

alone a basis for belief             we see what was there before the camera
                                   it must be true

     an image cannot tell everything we want to know
                                                                       what happened

     images can be altered during
                       after the fact

                                                                      they ask us to do what they want
                                   there is heat in all interaction

                                                           this day laughing mid-command

                                                          this day quizzing us on birth dates

                                                           “Okay O kick” “O come here”

I am writing to make the process of perception perceptible to me

           in 1997 benzene was detected in deep space
           those related to benzene comprise a diverse family
           Hofmann used the word aromatic to designate this dynamic

I like that in video we express ourselves as witnesses in transition

                                                          five of us in a row eating cake in silence

                                                           we feed ourselves and one of us feeds another

                                                           a pitcher of flowers obscures K’s face her hair falls forward each time she lifts the plate toward her face

           aromatic molecules are very stable
           they do not break apart easily to react with others

poems aren’t true is the video true                     true to whom
                       reality itself re-presents itself
I think of myself as a prop                                 placed on the stool
                                                                        in the chair

                                                           K shoves my knees apart or she slams together

                                                           I wipe the cake off my shin
                       care is required
                       for witness

I think of myself as a recording device
I simultaneous record while re-presenting over and over again                           I record
                                                           over and over I do not record over
           however nonchalant I appear

           in action we wordlessly ask them to do what we want
           actions can grow louder

                                               what do we want
                                               what am I doing
                                               what am I wanting

           the more compassion I have for myself the sooner I can