Ocean Vuong

Anaphora as Coping Mechanism


Can't sleep
so you put on his grey boots -- nothing else -- & step
inside the rain. Even though he's gone, you think, I still want
to be clean. If only the rain were gasoline, your tongue
a lit match, & you can change without disappearing. If only
he dies the second his name becomes a tooth
in your mouth. But he doesn't. He dies when they wheel him
away & the priest ushers you out the room, your palms two puddles of rain. He dies as your heart beats faster,
as another war coppers the sky. He dies each night
you close your eyes & hear his slow exhale. Your fist choking
the dark. Your fist through the bathroom mirror. He dies
at the party where everyone laughs & all you want is to go
into the kitchen & make seven omelets before burning
down the house. All you want is to run into the woods & beg
the wolf to fuck you up. He dies when you wake
& it's November forever. A Hendrix record melted
on a rusted needle. He dies the morning he kisses you
for two minutes too long, when he says Wait followed by
I have something to say & you quickly grab your favorite pink pillow & smother him as he cries into the soft
& darkening fabric. You hold still until he's very quiet,
until the walls dissolve & you're both standing in the crowded train
again. Look how it rocks you back & forth like a slow dance
seen from the distance of years. You're still a freshman. You're still
but he smiles anyway. His teeth reflected in the window
reflecting your lips as you mouth Hello -- your tongue
a lit match.

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About "Anaphora as Coping Mechanism"

Anaphora is defined as the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, in this case the narrator repeats the phrase “He dies” frequently throughout the poem as a way of dealing with the disappearance or death of the narrator’s significant other.

This version of the poem is slightly different as it appears in the collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds than the version published earlier in the year.

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