You Demand Nothing

by Steven Duong

but a history.

The bent trees, gutted temples,
ring-years coiled in sepia—all of it.

You cousin every crack
in the sidewalk.

You, with your PhD in alchemy, trade
  names on the black market,

though your story is a hotel
rededicated too often

for one to stick. The nightstand in each
room-shell of your heart contains

  a dictionary caulked with slurs.

On its own time, driftwood
migrates across the Pacific.

On your mother's neck,
the Buddha, jaded, smiles—

perhaps too wide.

Steven Duong is a Vietnamese American poet from San Diego, California. He studies English at Grinnell College in Iowa and is an editor of the Grinnell Underground Magazine. His work received an Academy of American Poets University & College Prize and appears on