The Gift | Ocean Vuong


The Gift | Ocean Vuong

a b c a b c a b c

She doesn't know what comes after.
So we begin again:

 a b c a b c a b c

But I can see the fourth letter:
a strand of black hair — unraveled
from the alphabet
& written
on her cheek.

Even now the nail salon
will not leave her: isopropyl acetate,
ethyl acetate, chloride, sodium lauryl
sulfate & sweet fuming
through her pink
I <3 NY t-shirt

a b c a b c a b c — the pencil snaps.

The b bursting its belly
a dark dust blows
through a blue-lined sky.

Don't move, she says, as she picks
a wing bone of graphite
from the yellow carcass, slides it back
Again. & again

I see it: the strand of hair lifting
from her face. . . how it fell
onto the page — & lived
with no sound. Like a word.
I still hear it.

To watch an animated version of the poem, click on the image below (sound on):

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