When I kick up the treble, something in your voice cracks
like a sun ten seconds from going red dwarf, from cracking
the sky open like a pint of your favorite. When I punch up
the mid, the star offs itself, spilling all your firecracker
ad-libs into the street, the beat its own Tết, each WHAT!
& WHOA! a cork popping off to welcome the crack
of dawn—one last toast to the season’s hungry ghosts, to
the year well bruised, the year on your wrist with its cracked
watch face, its coat of stars. Before I can up the bass, Ba says,
Bad noise, change it. He wrinkles his nose, refuses to crack
his best American smile, & so I flash my own, toothy & off-white.
I let your 808s thump on like mortars, your snares crack
off like small arms. He snorts, grimaces, boots up the radio.
See the lines on his face, those runes wrinkling to the crackle
of distant stations. They know that silence is white, that noise
is red, & it takes a whole lot of red to sunset a galaxy, to crack
the safe of good fortune. Before me, Ba was like you. He knew
all the lyrics to joy. He never let quiet slip through the cracks.
Steven Duong’s poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Passages North, AGNI, Pleiades, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. A 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellow and 2020 Gregory Djanikian Scholar in Poetry, he lives in San Diego. (updated 10/2020)