Poetry

The Last Prom Queen in Antarctica

Ocean Vuong

It’s true I’m all talk & a French tuck
but so what. Like the wind, I ride
my own life. Neon light electric
in the wet part of roadkill
on the street where I grew up. I want to
take care of our planet
because I want a beautiful
coffin. It’s true, I’m not
a writer but a faucet
underwater. When the flood comes
I’ll raise my hand so they know
who to shoot. The sky flashes. The sea
yearns. I myself
am hell. Everyone’s here. Sometimes
I go to parties just to dangle my feet
out of high windows, among people.
The boy crying in his car
at the end of his shift at McDonald’s
on Easter Sunday. The way
he wipes his eyes with his shirt
as the big trucks blare
from the interstate. My favorite
kind of darkness is the one
inside us, I want to tell him.
And: I like the way your apron
makes it look like you’re ready
for war. I too am ready for war.
Given another chance,
I’d pick the life where I play the piano
in a room with no roof. Broken keys, Bach
sonata like footsteps fast
down the stairs as
my father chases my mother
through New England’s endless
leaves. Maybe music was always
a stroke of night high in the lord
-­low oak. Maybe I saw a boy in a Nissan
the size of a monster’s coffin
crying in his black apron & knew
I could never be straight. Maybe,
like you, I was one of those people
who loves the world most
when I’m rock-­bottom in my fast car
going nowhere.

Ocean Vuong is the author of Night Sky with Exit Wounds and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. He was awarded a 2019 MacArthur “Genius” Grant.
Originally published:
May 19, 2021

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