Vi Khi Nao


The year I was supposed to die, I don't die.
I see my body before her eyes
Our reticent voice of intimacy
When it was awkward and lovely between us
As my attempt to slow down
The passion that is slowly brewing between us
Like smothered coffee in a trash bag

I don't care what happens
I just want to die right away
Then I remember
I can't
My mother has at least ten years to live
And suicide must be a lover I must learn to discard at any moment’s notice
I wonder what my lover thinks of me
The way I treat her like suicide, stringing her along
I want to have you, but not yet
Tomorrow my mother is eating kale
And is very healthy & doesn't smoke or drink & does yoga and has the strength & energy and
vitality of a 20 year old boy


I love it when the head coaches of the NFL cover their
mouths when they verbalize their game plans
I wonder if the ocean ever covers its lips whenever
the river opens its wide mouth to disclose its plan to
drown all the carps and catfish through plastic poisoning
I expect the carps to put on their football helmets to defend its life from plastic
I expect the quarterbacks in the form of
phytoplankon to lead the rivers out of hell
When it is January again and the Superbowl hasn't fallen asleep on my lap
I take the salmon to bed with me
And press a warm hand on its cold body
While it dies slowly in my arms
I know fresh wild fish never makes a good face mask
I know I can't resolve my daddy issues by whispering all my secrets to a dead fish
I know that even when I don't cover my face
My life strategy can be read by everyone
Including those who are not even my opponents
Because my secret is that all along
I just want to die with that grill-bearing craniate
In that bed of mine that no one would dare to say is anybody's riverbed

VI KHI NAO is the author of four poetry collections: Human Tetris (11:11 Press, 2019) Sheep Machine (Black Sun Lit, 2018), Umbilical Hospital (Press 1913, 2017), The Old Philosopher (winner of the Nightboat Prize for 2014), & of the short stories collection, A Brief Alphabet of Torture (winner of the 2016 FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize), the novel, Fish in Exile (Coffee House Press, 2016). Her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She was the Fall 2019 fellow at the Black Mountain Institute.