For National Poetry Month: "O Tree (Borassus)," "Passenger Pigeon," "After the Murder Ballad"

April 21, 2014   •   By Hoa Nguyen


Bud that chops the hill
I was there      I clock
foolish making a leaf soup

Napalm is a jellied gasoline

This makes sense: bombs &
the sappy will swings

“Wars are more fun with money”

Pine swung     oak-aloof
branch down       chainsaw down
Father burning the tent caterpillar nest

What do you see in the fire?

Isolated trees
Palmyra tree
Green blueish leaves



“Martha,” a passenger pigeon named after George Washington’s wife,
was the last of her kind. Immediately following her death in 1914 she was packed
in an enormous 300-pound block of ice and shipped to the Smithsonian.

Turn the metal shoe ring
Sing    like the swallow swollen
I mean    men

            Be the little sparrow

Martha— why “passenger”?
Why wife sew-er?


like a storm
to pass by

“Your teeth & bone were once coral”

and A.C. unit pause    and rifle fire

o    no     Canada Day             with Asian
fireworks effects    a sovereign dominion
for               you know                colonial

I pollen

I liveliness and chirp

The poet Juvenal declared
“I hate a woman who reads”

The quick big water changes

in Cincinnati zoological gardens


In June 1974, she returned to the Cincinnati Zoological Gardens for the dedication of a new building named in her honor. Both times she was flown first class, with an airline flight attendant escorting her for the entire trip.



Bringing some other fine things
hard full life     atoms springing

No money      No fine things

Flatteringly     we are the cave
It will be OK in disgrace

She jumped    Came to the river
deep water    Thou restless ungathered

orphan     Tell me your mind
to mend   to drown you in despair

         Let me sing gone
If I can live kicked & chocked

Turned around in deep water


Hoa Nguyen is an American poet, editor, and publisher. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario where she teaches poetics at Ryerson University.