Night Sky with Exit Wounds (Vuong)

The title captures the essence of this collection perfectly. Beauty juxtaposed with violence. The beauty of nature and of love, and in particular, of the love between men. The love between a father and a son, and the love between two men. Both beautiful and both sometimes violent in emotion, if not action. And the Vietnam War, always and irrevocably, lingers in the background. From “Into the Breach”  —

                                          It’s simple. I don’t know

how to love a man

gently. Tenderness

a thing to be beaten


It’s tough to pick a favorite. “Trojan,” “In Newport I Watch My Father Lay his Cheek to a Beached Dolphin’s Wet Back,” and “Anaphora as a Coping Mechanism” are all outstanding. So are “Torso of Air,” “Logophobia” and “Devotion.” See, it is hard to choose.

“Devotion,” like others in this collection, is inspired by Greek mythology. Here are the closing lines from the closing poem of this essential collection (I may not be able to capture the proper spacing):

&so what – if my feathers /

are burning. I

never asked for flight.


Only to feel

this fully, this

entire, the way snow

touches bare skin – & is,

suddenly, snow

no longer. – Vuong

Poetry Foundation – Vuong

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