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spring/summer 2019

Boat People

by Joshua Nguyen

Photo Credit: Chuck Huru

Where was all the flying paper towel rolls when our feet got wet when the water began to crawl inside when

the boat began to tip over when there were too many people in          I guess it was when the last helicopter left

with a ladder full of people who looked like me when my father awoke with half his weight on the boat when

they crashed into Port Arthur & realized the shrimp followed them                  there too when they set up

shop & they started making a life                 when white-hooded men thought they owned the sea & all the fish

underneath & they watched from the boat when fire            & water tongue-kissed when I was born from
it             the salt                I guess when I face my aunt            who says ​we were good immigrants, they don’t work hard

like us​ when she means close the door        behind you when everyone deserves a chance to live when it’s hard

to love a face that has a mouth when there was a time the nation hated                           my aunt & everyone who

looked like her when they had nowhere else to go when my aunt doesn’t understand the parallel I guess when

she switches from Fox News to the game when things get awkward when the president talks about people on

their boats in Texas when my people are still fresh off it                      when in the face of disaster we know the

best way inside outside or around it                when this time the photos of the people on the boats look more

like the America we should want to be 

Joshua Nguyen is a Kundiman Fellow, collegiate national poetry champion (CUPSI), and a native Houstonian. He has been published in The Offing, The Acentos Review, Rambutan Literary, Button Poetry, The Texas Review, Gulf Coast, and Hot Metal Bridge. He is currently an MFA candidate at The University of Mississippi. He is a bubble tea connoisseur and works in a kitchen.

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