Ocean's Burnings

I stumbled upon the poetry of Ocean Vuong within the pages of PANK’s June 2010 issue and I fell in love. They had the most beautiful depictions of sex, love and the desperate yearning for the love of a brutal parent. Such a voice! So, the moment I saw Ocean Vuong had a book of poetry I bought it, literally. Clicked link, bought book.

The book is called, “Burnings” and it’s comprised of two parts. Part one which has poems dealing with family history, survival and struggles in another country and part two which covers what drew me to Ocean in the first place, love, sex and yearning.

From a poem in the first part of the book, “ Song of My Mothers” which is a poem dedicated to the Vietnamese women who perished during the U.S. war in Vietnam:

Of the jaws bursting
under boot soles,
the eyes streaked with ash,
eyes that refuse to close
beneath the earth.

Of the wives who charged
into burning fields,
who knelt and scraped
someone else’s husband
into cracked jars of glass...”

“Sing of the sisters who held hands
while soldiers took turns,
who fled by closing their eyes,
only to find their bodies
too cold to return to…”

There is something about the poems in the first part of this book that Ocean does to make so many brutal things have a sense of beauty about them, thick with reverence.

The second part of the book lifts you up a bit from the first. There is less sadness and more hope in poems that carry words of love, of sex, of beauty and longing.

In, “Ode to Masturbation,” Ocean cleanses me of every shameful feeling I’ve ever had about this vice I’ve carried since childhood. I’ve never read such a beautiful thing about what I’ve come to think of as the most selfish of acts:

“Reach down, there is music
in the body, play yourself
like a lyre, insert the finger
into sanctum, feel
the quivering of crevices, skin
palpitating ripples as if stretched
over drumbeats.”

I can’t wait to see what more this young poet will bring us...bring me.

“Burnings” can be purchased at Sibling Rivalry Press.

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