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Christmas Eve, 2016

Joshua Nguyen


& on this day
the Cincinnati Bengals miss the game-winning field goal 
& the Houston Texans clinch a playoff spot.
& the living room erupts & we stay drunk till midnight. There is a hidden box of Cognac my father finds in the cupboard. No one steals the vase from my grandmother's grave. Instead, she rises from the oven & broils her famous thịt kho. My lap crumbles into solid yolk while the tv plays her favorite episode of Paris By Night where I am a perished background extra. Center stage, the Viet singer does his best to keep up with the audio track. Fake fog bursts my lungs & my family collects the debris like the rainfall I usually am.
J Watt (DE) screams and twirls his towel in the air.
& for a moment, I forget my cousin is a cop. & for a moment, I have the courage to speak back & his eyes ebb into the glass. He stops saying the n-word & lets her daughter sing in Japan. Opens up about his anger issues. About how he knows he is the least-liked child & his stint in prison. Together, we superglue the table where his fist made love with a splintered tongue.
Deandre Hopkins (WR) kneels and prays to God.
& I don't mind that Cousin Angie gives me a gift card that says To:Angie, From:Sam & I don't know who Sam is & I don't catch fire under her wall of thirty-seven crucifixes. Instead, I find god in teaching my six-year-old cousin Bella how to backstab in UNO. She makes me draw eight cards & I hear life doesn't go easy on nobody & my brother opens the front door with plans to move back from Seoul. In the backyard, I clear the moss from the hoop. We continue our one-on-one game where the winner gets his whole stack of X-men comics.
The players rush the field, the fans in the arena hug complete strangers.
& workers in Chinatown finally get Christmas bonuses & my aunt finally takes a day off. We walk along Bellaire Blvd & witness the neon sunset. Another fender-bender is accompanied by the scent of sweet milk bread from the engines. Tapioca shops are required to use actual green tea leaves & I forget to withdraw cash but, today, it's okay because credit card minimums have decreased to two dollars. I buy my aunt boba. She doesn't fight for the bill. The corner unfolds & my fortune collapses from her tongue: Yao Ming comes out of retirement & raises a third banner. Kids grow thick beards to keep their joy warm. & the potholes, the potholes are full of liquor & love & excuses but my family drives through them. My body bruised from the flatbed where my cousin would get too close & I would imagine the one bump that would let my family fly.


Joshua Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American writer, a collegiate national poetry slam champion (CUPSI), and a native Houstonian. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Sundress Academy For The Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. He has been published in The Offing, Wildness, Button Poetry, The Texas Review, Auburn Avenue, Crab Orchard Review, and Gulf Coast. He is a PhD student at The University of Mississippi, where he also received his MFA. He is a bubble tea connoisseur and works in a kitchen. Follow him at @joshuanguyen03 on all social media accounts.


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