by Duy Doan
Allegory for Family Members
Bà Ngoại, who will pray for me
when you are gone?
the master of ceremonies with her microphone
a young child making hand
shadows over palm
leaves during a sermon
the braids of a toy mare
Did my confession make us closer? I killed the pope. Huddled next to you, burrowed along your side,
face down in supplication: I’m ruined, I’ve been corrupted forever, Bà Ngoại. When you told everyone I
was your favorite, was this before or after I confessed? One’s the prodigal son, the other is his brother.
Either story works for me. On my birthday, too many lines and the pope dies.
guilt, Catholic gifts
red and gold paper
packets wasted on games
the green banana ripening
red dust lining the lip of the new year's vase
Prayer in Writing
When I pray, I often pray to Bà Ngoại.
When I write, I always have in mind a living reader.
When I pray, I pray for myself.
When I write, it’s the same.
I've prayed to Bà that she pray for me.
I've prayed to God to help me pray genuinely.
I write in symbol:
committing the unforgivable sin, I adulterate prayer with metaphor, asking God to make me less like Jacob, and more like Esau.
But in praying this,
I become Jacob.
When I pray, I shouldn't use words.
When I write, I shouldn't use prayer.
I should write as I pray.
Or I should stop writing.
Duy Doan is the author of We Play a Game, winner of the 2017 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize (Yale University Press, March 2018). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Slate, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, Doan received an MFA in poetry from Boston University, where he serves as director of the Favorite Poem Project.