Two Poems by Thao Votang

The Men I Like

On a clear one-hundred degree day
I wondered if I liked the men I liked,
thin, slight, fragile,
so I could believe
they could not
break me.

On cool, breezy nights when
We talked about
What we carried in our bodies,
The blood of our mothers,
I thought of war and I remember 
the sound of spent shells hitting concrete.

I remember 
When I froze —
This act of freezing
In one of many instances of uncertainty —
I hear coward, cowardly, cowardness
I freeze, I escape as quickly as I can.

The heavy weight of a gun
In my hands
The heat of the barrel
Sharp sting of the shell when it hits
The ping of metal
The dull click when it’s empty.

Hold Your Breath

Like an overly ripe tomato,
The skin pulling on a dull serrated blade,
Not cutting until you push and
Squish the inside,
Juice splattering over the counter.
Trapped in a container
Thirty-nine lives lost, 
Only our memories will keep,
Every six days then a month then year we remember.
This was just another
Sad story not yet ten a.m.
Even I, in my proximity
Can’t understand the desperation
Of another sad story.

Thao Votang is a writer based in Austin, Texas. Her prose and poetry are published in Crack the Spine, Lucky Jefferson, and New Literati. Votang is an assistant editor at American Short Fiction, and her essays and reviews have appeared in Sightlines, Conflict of Interest, and Arts & Culture Texas.

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