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Sep 8, 2014
5 Min read time
I met Ocean Vuong through the poems he read one night at Manhattan’s Bureau of General Services–Queer Division. While Vuong’s words struck me as delicate, even simple, their impact was gut-clenching, soul-piercing. His lines are like careful calipers opening us, each to each, as he bears out a heaviness meant not to hold us down but to unveil the magma underlying the presumption of life: just as light is both particle and wave, or as the human body is composed of more microbes than human cells, that which animates isn’t just one thing, it isn’t simply a life force—it is also decay. We are elements in motion that are not-us.
Vuong distills ideas. We steep in them. This is one way to open the world. Digging down in the dirt of it reveals that the heat emitted by rot is the engine of living’s mechanisms. “Ode to Masturbation” exemplifies a sensual unearthing that permits us slow-motion glances at the currents at work, holding us together as political (“lips like money / laramie jasper / & sanford towns”), desirous (“every rib / humming / the desperation / of unstruck / piano keys”), historical (“hard facts / gathering / the memory of rust”), spiritual (“the lord cut you / here / to remind us / where he came from”), and elemental (“you scrape the salt / off the cunt-cock / & call it / daylight”). We are nothing if not everything resonating, distant and unified by distance, the primordial soup of Vuong’s cum shot as “an articulation / of chewed stars.” This type of blasphemy illuminates “the if under every / utterance” that will save us from our certainties and enable us toward what we thought was elsewhere in the universe—like the light of dead stars emerging from ourselves.
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September 08, 2014
5 Min read time
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