Button Poetry First Readings – Hieu Nguyen – “Stubborn Inheritance”


After we put my grandmother to sleep in an
incinerator, they returned her to us in a tin cube, along with the plastic bag full
of things that refused to melt: nails, screws, a titanium knee cap. Her wedding ring was
still solid placed in the urn surrounded by the dust, her. And I thought skin was the
only thing holding one’s body together. She sat on our bookshelf for months, not sure
what to do with our beloved debris, what mountain or gust of wind. what seaside cliff or bathroom
drain; whose lungs would take her on a grand adventure.
Most of her jingling joints kept in a Ziplock bag, like bullets serving no purpose
outside of a body. It took my mother eight years to accept me
for being gay. For eight years I sat and watched my house burn. I watched her save the baby
photos and leave the baby. I know – I should be grateful that she came around at all. That
she forgave me. I’ve been told that it’s not her fault,
it’s how she was raised. I’ve been told that our families old way of thinking – I
have been told to forgive this “Stubborn Inheritance.” This thing has lived inside
her body and her mother’s and her mother’s father. I have been told that once you’ve
been stabbed, it’s better to leave the blade inside the body. Removing the dagger will
only open the wound further. Forgiveness will bleed you thin if you ignore it.
Your skin could close around the metal. This is a part of your now. This is all you will
find when my body crumbles- this vengeful child, this shiny grudge of 13-year old
crawling from the ashes holding a gas can in his hands.

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