In Vigil of Ephemeral Things

[W]hat becomes of the shepherd
when the sheep are cannibals?

          Is there a shape to your shadow?
An œconomy of offerings to
swallow? Who has the power to tell your
story? To stop the blood-flow after your
          heart’s old wounds have been opened? To

          suture closed the broken window
hindsight’s blind opportunity climbs through,
carrying catharsis like a viper
in a pillowcase it wears as a veil
          the way a hermit crab takes on

          trash as a home? Bolting tight the
once-riveting implications of a
complicated history none of you
admits happened or claims as your own? To
          hammer-off god’s ears so he can’t

          hear your prayers? Who are these semi-
divine anomalies at once condemned
and free to be philosophers, lovers
of wisdom neither fully Catholic
          nor Protestant, but Her(m)etic

          in their worship of concepts whose
object is to reconcile all of what
is here on earth with all that fills heaven
above? Using brazen ritual tools
          to deface the legacy of

          my name you erase with them as
if they were crude surgical instruments
extricating dirty fame in vigil
of ephemeral things, what is the aim
          of these teachings your critics call

          heresies? Why am I to blame
for memorializing for strangers
in these pages all of your mistakes you
made? Acid ink which eats at your face the
          way rain changes the statue of

          a king from a mythic being
to a parable whose meaning fades with
his deeds into monuments a desert’s
unrelenting oblivion claims as
          payment taken as a trophy

          or totem like a shrunken head
used as a token for a toll before
its time to cross over what passes in
a moment, ferrying by withholding
          further comment, passing judgment

          on your ride to the horizon
the Libran side of my mind weighs against
your imbalanced anticipation of
again rising after mistaking my
          rhymes for forgiven confessions.

1Ocean Vuong, “Prayer for the Newly Damned”, [Stanza 1, Lines 29–30], in Night Sky with Exit Wounds, published at Port Townsend, Washington by Copper Canyon Press in 2016; page 56.