“Theology” by Ocean Vuong

Read by the author.


Do you remember when I tried to be good.

It was a bad time.

So much was burning without a source.

I’m sorry I was so young.

I didn’t mean it.

It’s just this thing is heavy.

How could anyone hold all of it & not melt.

I thought gravity was a law, which meant it could be broken.

But it’s more like a language. Once you’re in it

you never get out. A fool, I climbed out the window

just to look at the stars.

It was too dark & the crickets sounded like people I know

saying something I don’t.

I think I had brothers.

Think I heard them crying once, then laughing, until the laughing

was just in my head.

That’s how it is here: leaky.

One day, while crossing the creek, I met a boy.

Lips red as a scraped knee.

When our eyes met, he gasped. Then raised his rifle.

That’s how I found out I was a squirrel.

That’s how I lost my tail, the only thing I was great at.

I don’t know what my name is but I can feel it.

A throbbing in the blood.

Last night, I heard a voice & climbed

to the tallest branch, so high I forgot all the rules.

It was like being skinned into purpose.

Below me was a rectangle the man had been digging all night.

I watched him a long time, his body a question mark unravelling.

When the light grew pink, the man stopped.

Others, in black coats, gathered around him.

I know I was put here for a reason, but I spend most days

just missing everybody.

The man lowered a box into the slot he had dug.

As if pushing a coin into a giant machine.

That must be how they pay to be here.

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