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a man

KatieAnn Nguyen

Child, spit

your father tries to make a man out of you.

taking away your journals and headphones,

because nothing’s worse than when your son

is a weakling who writes poetry and songs

Child, look at me

you stare at sunflower fields in tones of dusty nightfall,

and your fingers twitch at the notion of writing—

because in that field, you spot your childhood; you spot

your yearning, your manhood running through fields of

towering smiles and lost dreams

Child, follow my lead

by the age of five, you wear cuts and bruises like medals.

you do not cry anymore, you do not play with dolls, you do not

follow the callings of your heart. but in the darkness of night,

guided by the stars’ rays, you write your dreams into existence

Child, take my hand

you swore for the first time. and your father patted you on the back,

and it tasted like acidic blood on your tongue when you felt the

syllables come alive: tarnishing taste buds that yearned for sugary

delight; and when you came home with a black eye and a broken arm,

your father only nodded with pride, because that weakling of a son

had vanished alongside your dreams

Child, you are wrong

forgive me father for I have sinned.

and when you’re confessing for the wrong things, you feel

bile climb up your throat.

and you are a man, you are a man, you are a man,

is scrawled on your skin in permanent black marker—branding you.

Father, I am a man

it comes to you in the dead of night in December;

tree branches scratch at your window and you startle awake to

the creaking muses of the night; a man a man a man

taunts you with every whistle of the wind. and suddenly you’re

scribbling for a night the thoughts you keep suppressed.

and when you look at your father in the eyes for the first time,

handing him the letter you wrote,

you know what it means to be a man.

About the Author

KatieAnn Nguyen is a Hmong-Vietnamese American who lives in California, US. To her, writing is about the freedom of expression, an extension of who she is. It is her hope that one day her work will be able to touch someone and help them through their own experiences.

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