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3 poems

by Steven Duong

Steven Duong is a poet and aquarium hobbyist currently residing in Thailand as a 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, conducting a yearlong international writing project titled “Freshwater Fish and the Poetry of Containment.” The recipient of 2017 and 2019 Academy of American Poets prizes, his poems can (or can soon) be found in places like The Margins, The Adroit Journal,, Pleiades, Passages North, Salt Hill, and The Shallow Ends. He has been known to smile impossibly wide in the presence of his friends.

Travel Blog

Mars smells like piss.

Mercury is an Israeli settlement.

There is an active shooter situation on Venus
& its moons appear to have been deleted.

Dr. Nguyen reports that the gas giants
have merged into one supermassive ball.

Because our sun is shrinking, she says,
that term means less & less each year.

Elon Musk is a supermassive dick.

Transmission from Mons Olympus:
the astronomers are tired of the classics.

The new planet’s name will be 鬼才.

鬼才was a Tang Dynasty poet who died
completely broke, strung-out on ether.

Pluto smells like piss.

I am glad to be leaving this place.

Worldship C-389, Vega System

The business we did was serious business.
Missions logged, mountains moved, stars
& their spangled stipulations.
Space is not inherently sexy. People forget this.

A pilot, a botanist & a carp farmer walk
onboard a ship crewed by artists & petty thieves.
Their destination: a dusty orb on which
they will build two hydroponic plantations.
The rich need their orchids
& ornamental fish.
                The artists & thieves take cash.

[final known entry, solar day 619, 01:44]

The pilot updates her asteroid registry.
The botanist applies for a new terraforming license.
The carp farmer sings to his koi in Vietnamese,
which he believes will stimulate positive fin growth.
The artists write fin-growth ballads,
                which the thieves steal & die singing.

Worldship A-129, 黄色 System

some genius decided to give
the diaspora a class-A starship

which is why we are abroad again
rootless & starving

at one point we were redder than blood
                      says the captain’s auntie
before they pronounce her dead
a possible ingredient

we are approaching what historians call
a Donner Party situation

this cold porcelain rock
with no arable soil
this newborn nation of so many mouths
                    & so few farmers

our hotpot robots look a bit like Scarjo

the born-again Koreans are planting sins

Hoa Mai the photographer
shoots Hoa Mai the performance artist

& my cousin Angie dresses her
                 the old Cantonese way
oyster sauce with honey & lotus

the word “languaging” appears above New Saigon
in Tumblr blue & 4chan green

as rogue memoirists seize the gunnery

& the poets are singing again
of dumplings
                        tongues & bubble tea
how strict their mothers
used to be

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