Response to "Telemachus" by Ocean Vuong

Like all good fathers, I drag my son from
the alley, pull him by the hands 
toward the avenue, heels shaping furrows
the garbage rushes in to fill. Because the city
beyond the waterfront is no longer  
where I left it. Because the public
garden is now a garden  
of mire. I drop his body to see how far
he might sink. Do you know where I've been,
Son? But the answer is nothing. The answer

is the needle hanging from his arm, ripping
along the vein. He is so beautiful I can't imagine
he could be my son, discovered
the way a texted message might arrive
on a father's phone after years
without contact. I kiss
his forehead. Too late. I look him over,
to read him. The book

of his char-coated face. The face
not his but the one he will wear

to kiss his father good-night:
the way I cradle my child's body
against my own and continue
the relentless work of dying.

Next Poem

Body Bag

Return to Mysteries Selection