Beautiful Short Loser

by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong

Stand back, I’m a loser on a winning streak.

I got your wedding dress on backwards & playing air guitar on this dirt road.

I taste my mouth the most &, let me tell ya, what a blessing.

The most normal things about me are my shoulders. You’ve been warned.

Where I’m from it’s only midnight for a second
the trees look like grandfathers laughing in the rain.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a preference for mediocre bodies,
including my own.

Tell me this, why is the past tense always longer?

Is the memory of a song the shadow of a sound or is that too much?

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I imagine Van Gogh singing
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” into his cut ear & feeling peace.

Green voices in the rain, green rain in the voices.

Oh no, the sadness is intensifying. How rude.

Hey, [knocks on skull], can you get me out of here?

That one time Jaxson passed out on his triple stack of jumbo pancakes
at Denny’s after top surgery.

I can’t believe I lost my boobs, he said a minute before, smiling through tears.

The sadness in him ends in me tonight.

It ends tonight!, I shouted to the cop who pulled us over for dreaming.

I’m not drunk, officer, I just believe in miracles.

Tomorrow, partly cloudy with a chance.

I’m done talking, sir, I’m saying what I feel.

I’m on the cliff of myself & these aren’t wings, they’re futures.

For as long as I can remember my body was a small town nightmare.

Now I’m a beautiful short loser dancing in the rain.

Inside my head the war is everywhere.

Do you think I’ll need a gun where we’re going?

Can you believe my uncle worked at the Colt factory for ten years
only to use a belt at the end?

Talk about discipline. Talk about good Lord.

Maybe he saw that a small thing moving through a large thing
is more like a bird in a cage than a word in the mouth.

It can’t be free without breaking open.

I’m not sad, he told me once, laughing, I’m just always here.

See officer? The world is a magic trick – everyone disappears.

Why aren’t you laughing?

No, not beauty – but you and I outliving it.

Somehow, I got me for days. Got this late light
in the yard leaving blood on the bone

-colored fence. This thrash of spring we drown in to stay awhile
& mean it. I mean it when I say I’m mostly

male. That I recall every follicle in the failure the way they’ll remember God
after religion: alone, impossible, & good.

I know. I know the room you’ve been crying in
is called America.

I’m sorry the door is not invented yet.

Wait awhile. Like death, we are most useful at the end.

Finally, after years of failure, I’m now a professional loser.

I’m unstoppable! I’m crushing it in losses! I’m mopping the floor
where Jaxson’s drain bags leaked on his way to bed.

I’m done talking, officer, I’m dancing
in the rain with a wedding dress & it makes sense.

Because my uncle decided to leave this world intact.

Because taking a piece of my friend away from him
made him more whole.

Because where I’m from the trees look like family
laughing in my head.

Because I am the last of my kind at the beginning of hope.

Because what I did with my one short beautiful life—was lose it
on a winning streak.

Last updated February 24, 2023