» Poetry

Two Poems

A Patient’s Family Asks What Do I Know

In the ICU, my friend washed another friend’s

face with the serum and cream samples


they hoarded from Sephora. She sloped

and shaped his eyebrows like calligraphy.


The nurses envied his stainless skin,

saintly, like he hadn’t made a perfect O


on an imaginary dick to teach me

about efficient blowjobs. When I die


I know my friends will be dragged

up in sequins and blush, will cut cake


with their contour. But I know death

has always picked my more beautiful


loves over me. What a lucky bastard, to burn

a candle in wild fire. To make breath


into moan and song. How we learned

hunger and feast from our own fabulous


bodies. I don’t know much of anything.

I don’t think as much as do, as much


as want and miss and admire. I hope

you have love letters for my friends.


I wouldn’t blame you. Those handsome

boys. But I’d say find another messenger


because when I see my boys, my girls,

I will kiss them, and perform nothing


else, forever, for so long we will be reborn

as trees joined at the trunks, a set of summer


winds over sweaty sunbathing hunks, a handful

of hard candies melted into rainbow.



Cadaver Lab

I figured it’d be months without laughter.

Understandably. On pelvic dissection day

my friend Amelia whispers I’m sorry,


girlfriend before starting the saw.

Another friend unknowingly holds


his cadaver’s hand during the biggest

incisions. Classmates I don’t even like

point out veins and nerves to spare me


hours of inhaling fat and fascia. Then

one group finds a penis pump and we decide


yes he meant it as a surprise and the boys

fist bump his cold hands. Another group

shares their cadaver’s perfect pink polish,


another has fresh, unwrinkled ink

across her chest. Like tiny treasures


for us. Of course no one donates their body

without a sense of humor. Of course the body

is a gift. We admit on dissection days


we all leave hungry, specifically for chicken.

I booked my calendar with hook-ups


as if to practice how the blood flows

while it can. One boy I brought home

had a scar down his sternum, a souvenir


of a heart condition. He apologized

years after the incision healed, like the scar


didn’t pucker like lips. I imagined the lights

baring on him, how so many lucky

hands got to press against his skin.


Eric Tran

Eric Tran is queer Vietnamese writer and a resident physician in psychiatry in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is also an associate editor at Orison Books. His debut book of poems, The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer, won the Autumn House Press Emerging Writer's contest. He is also the author of the chapbooks Revisions and Affairs with Men in Suits. His work has been featured in Poetry Daily and Best of the Net and appears or is forthcoming in Pleiades, Iowa Review, 32 Poems, and elsewhere.