Vi Khi Nao was born in Long Khanh, Vietnam in 1979. In 2013, she graduated with an MFA in fiction from Brown University, where she received the John Hawkes and Feldman Prizes in fiction and the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Awards in poetry. Vi’s work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. Her stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in NOON, The Iowa Review,Black Warrior Review and elimae, among others. She is the author of two novellas, Swans in Half-Mourning (2013) and The Vanishing Point of Desire (2011).
E X O D U S
I found your body dead on the street
but you found me alive and well
so you tug at my skin to see if it is tight
you take my body off, gravity is helping you
make the transition of trading
skin for skin face to face
bone for bone, easy
you take my eyes
rolling them around your palm
with the tips of your fingers.
You are tossing them in the air like dice
you like taking chances with my sight
you peel off my lips
yesterday they sampled rambutans & oysters
you carry my memory of rambutans & oysters with you
you rub my nose off
your skin so white and pasty like a thin sheet of banh cuon
you paste my hair onto your face
you are sloppy
you paste some of it under your chin
you carry an appearance of Ho Chi Minh
We cannot trade souls so we talk
About the weather in Indochine
About the Americans crawling on their bellies through the jungles
About the grenade that blows you to pieces
This is where I found out
You are alive and I am completely dead.
ODE TO HARICOT
I look at your verdant body
Thin and long
And I long to lick you
Tip to Tail
You are so unlike any of my pants
Or any of my other plants
I can strip you naked
Or unzip your flanks
And find you
Your seeds spilling out of
Your beautiful compartmentalized spines.
Most women have only one clitoris
You have too many
Lined up in a perfect row
You are the perfect sex symbol
Do you not know?
Or how complex your flavor
As you sit embalmed in my mouth
There is a knot
At the end of your tenuous height
Every time I take a look at you
How my chest tightens.
I think it is love at first sight.
I love how lazy you are
Stretched languishingly on the
Hard floor of the cutting board
Or on the empty net of the cullender
As if you are French
Lying on a hammock
While you read to me
Out of your silent lips
Voltaire, Beckett, Guillauma.
As if this is foreplay
Before I ravage you with Balsamic Vinegar.
FISH AT THE BOTTOM OF MANGROVE
It was time to be eating salmon on the snow
While my uterus made French dessert
Or perhaps pigments
For the next French Art Academia
Bled black the color of acrylic ivory
Black pigment: charred animal bones
On the milky underwear
It was pasty and succulent
A rich French dessert
I felt like an octopus
Or a fancy turn-of-the-century
Ovary that spilled fine Indian Ink
When I touched the pearl my hands smelled
Like gasoline if I made them
My fingernails would run 60 miles an hour
On the freeway of Poseidon.
I wondered if my female heart was
A type of fish or like the octopus
That pretended to be a pearl
Sitting at the bottom of mangrove
My friends feel like
a sheet of paper. Until I meet
them in person. In person,
they are bold & boxy.
My mind has to readjust to
their new cardboardselves.
In my mind, they keep folding
in, in person they keep folding
out. Cardboard boxes are confusing.
I wish I knew how to work a forklift.
My friends are on top of the stairs.
I collect them in my arms and throw
them downstairs. Water stains
will damage their frames. I hope
they have the decency to stack
themselves up and stay that way.
My friends are stacked neatly
in my room. I try to blow dry them
one by one. The thing with blow
drying friends is that they keep on
folding out and it’s hard to blow
dry their sides which is the most
important part of their packaging.
I hope I do not betray my friends
EATING AN ESKIMO HOUSE
My brother fed me a slice of grapefruit.
Peel here, he suggested.
I tore a triangle off it.
I admired it briefly before
Tearing it apart inside my mouth.
For a moment I thought I saw
A tiny pink igloo. The architect
Of Pulpy Clusters. Empty and citrus.