Into the Breach
Ocean Vuong

“The only motive that there ever was was to . . . . keep them with me as long as possible, even if it meant just keeping a part of them.” —Jeffrey Dahmer

I pull into the field, cut the engine.
It’s simple: I just don’t know
how to love a man
gently. Tenderness
a thing to be beaten
into. Fireflies strung
through sapphired dusk.

You’re so quiet you’re almost


The body made soft
to keep us
from loneliness.
You said that

as if the car was filling

with river water.

Don’t worry.
There’s no water.

Only your eyes

My tongue

in the crux of your chest.
Little black hairs

like the legs
of vanished insects.

I never wanted
the flesh.
How it never fails
to fail
so accurately.

But what if I broke through
the skin’s thin page

& found the heart

not the size of a fist
but your mouth opening

to the width
of Jerusalem. What then?

To love another
man — is to leave
no one behind
to forgive me.
I want to leave
no one behind.
To keep
& be kept.
The way a field
turns its secrets
into peonies.

The way light
keeps its shadow
by swallowing it.

Photo (c) 2009 Takashi Ota used under Creative Commons license.