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Poem: Lipstick Elegy

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nytimes.com

This poem explores all the distances between mothers and their children, the frayed seams between countries and cultures. It is also a poem of love and understanding, as if love is a way to the speaker’s freedom as a queer, trans Vietnamese American poet.

It is brimming with images as a way to enter the speaker’s intergenerational trauma. The speaker’s mouth is a “pomegranate/split open,” but also a “grenade with a loose pin.” The grandmother is described through imagery only — she is an “immortal bodhisattva/with a thousand hands, chewing a fist of betel root, your teeth black as dawn.” Here, imagery is both the language of survival and the language of escape.

Selected by Victoria Chang Lipstick Elegy By Paul Tran I climb down to the beach facing the Pacific. Torrents of rainshirr the sand.

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