Poem of the Month

Prayer for the Newly Damned | Ocean Vuong

prayer for the newly damned ocean vuong

Dearest Father, forgive me for I have seen.
Behind the wooden fence, a field lit
with summer, a man pressing a shank
to another man’s throat. Steel turning to light
on sweat-slick neck. Forgive me
for not calling Your name. For thinking:
this must be how every prayer
begins—the word Please cleaving
the wind into fragments, into what
a boy hears in his need to know
how pain blesses the body back
to its sinner. The hour suddenly
stilled. The man genuflected, his lips
pressed to black boot as the words spilled
from his mouth like rosaries
shattering from too much
Father. Am I wrong to love
those eyes, to see something so clear
and blue—beg to remain
clear and blue? Did my cheek twitch
when that darkness bloomed from his crotch
and trickled into ochre dirt? Father,
how quickly the blade becomes
You. But let me begin again: There’s a boy
kneeling in a house with every door kicked open
to summer. There’s a question corroding
his tongue. There’s a knife touching
Your name lodged inside the throat.
Dearest Father, what becomes of the boy
no longer a boy? Please—
what becomes of the shepherd
when the sheep are cannibals?

Ocean Vuong, published in Night Sky with Exit Wounds, 2016

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Briefly Gorgeous

This month’s poem has been chosen in recognition and celebration of LGBT+ poetry. Ocean Vuong is a contemporary Vietnamese-American poet and winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2017. Vuong’s first novel, ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ published this year is already receiving critical acclaim.

Vuong’s writing explores each corner of his life with raw honesty. He delves into his life growing up as a Vietnamese immigrant as well as discovering love and understanding homosexuality in a world where racism and homophobia are still rife. All this along with the familiar pangs of adulthood are expressed in his writing in a way that highlights the struggle of minority communities. In addition, Vuong’s artistry manages to connect to readers cross-generationally and promises to continue for years to come.

Pride in Poetry

In honour of Brighton Pride this weekend, as well as our poem of the month we’ve listed some of our favourite past and present LGBT+ poets. Click on each name to browse some truly inspiring and audacious collections.

Adrienne Rich Federico Garcia
Alice WalkerGertrude Stein
Allen GinsbergJackie Kay
Arthur RimbaudOscar Wilde
Carol Ann Duffy Walt Whitman

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What do you think of Ocean Vuong and our July poem of the month? Who’s your favourite LGBT+ poet? Let us know in the comments below.

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1 Comment

  • Reply June Vidal August 7, 2019 at 6:44 am

    Very touching. Makes you think.

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