/eric tran

My Father Worries War is Coming

He practiced nonviolence
outside the home. I may doubt
the purpose of the back of a hand

now, but he worked as a mechanic
and took a wire brush to the soft
palms that held night dark.

Sundays he tucked slicks
of soy sauce into scrambled eggs,
still the softest I remember. How

electrified I felt when he brought
two fists to my face listen
and the song of caught

crickets. How could they know
who was listening? Why I insist
on clapping soft. I let my steel

bite my skin into callous
but when the promise 
of integrity breaks it still

surprises delights?
me to remember blood runs
hot when it wants to run.

Listen, no hand keeps all
the light out. Winter
touches every branch.

What can we want? Now. To be 
held as the body holds breath.


Papaver Somniferum

Smoke in the kitchen. Impatience
choking up the bedroom, sweat
slicking down the elbow’s crook.

Once you flooded out my sink
with empties, with defrost,
and spoons that fed me honey

and you something sweeter.
What is the world if not for wanting?
I admit I’ve wanted your picked-at

scab, a broken voice through a
morning-night call. Breakfast hours
later. And what I want now is a sliver

caught between my teeth. Butter and bite. 
Fire in my mouth. A whole field alight.


Eric Tran is a resident physician in psychiatry in Asheville, NC and also received an MFA from UNC Wilmington. Eric’s debut, the Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer won the 2019 Autumn House Press Rising Writer’s Prize. Eric’s work appears in Iowa Review, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere.

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