Mercy by Hieu Minh Nguyen

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Once, while laying in his bed

a man asked me to quiet

his dog by speaking to it

in Vietnamese, said

well, she is your people

& if you need to inquire

about the breed

we cannot drink

from the same glass

& I am telling you this

not because I trust you

but because I truly wanted

to ignore him, to close my eye

& let my mouth fill

with his spit, but that wreckage

was a wall to thin

to fuck against—I hear what you’re

saying, mercy mercy

lighten up & I think about all the men

who’ve touched my body

& which of them own dogs

& which of them I could see

making this joke, or finding it funny

& I know, I know

I’m being unreasonable—there was a time

I would have stayed

& watched the trees fall all around me.

There was a time

I wouldn’t have made a sound

while the fire traced my erection.

Yes. I’m calling it a fire.

You should too.

Wherever he laid his hands

hair singed down to the skin.

I really should get a sense of humor

but that requires enduring

the labor of forgetting. Look here, I’m tired

of pretending the room

isn’t halfway ash, or filling with a smoke

so thick I mistake it

for the tips of his fingers. Ready at the socket

to gift me a new kind

of longing. Won’t you to do this for me?

Switch beds with me—

just for the night, just to see how hard it is

to sleep when all you hear

is laughter.


Photo of Hieu Minh Nguyen

Photo of Hieu Minh Nguyen

Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar (Write Bloody Press, 2014). Hieu is a Kundiman fellow and a poetry editor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in the Southern Indiana Review, Guernica, Ninth Letter, the Adroit Journal, Bat City Review, Indiana Review and elsewhere. His second collection of poetry is forthcoming on Coffee House Press in 2018. He lives in Minneapolis.