Why I Reach for You When I Know I Can’t Touch You
by Paul Tran

The surprise
of flowers

in the backyard.
A bag of soil
left outside

to dry in the sun.
A pot stacked
inside another pot

stacked inside
Someone was

here, I thought.
Someone had to
have done this

while I was busy
doing whatever
I was doing

in order not to
pay attention
to the world

that, unlike me,
has no choice
but to keep on

going. Changing.
Being and being
changed. I go

about my day.
Another email.
Another dish

in the sink.
Another hour
stacked inside

another hour.
Was I to want
to be that

heft of sun-
lit earth, that wave
of sun-crowned stems

opening and closing
their petals, their faces
turning to darkness

only in death?
Maybe I do.
Maybe I don’t.


Paul Tran is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation and the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Their work appears in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, Good Morning America, and elsewhere, including the Lionsgate movie Love Beats Rhymes with Azealia Banks, Common, and Jill Scott. They are the first Asian American since 1993 to win the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam, placing top 10 at the Individual World Poetry Slam and top 2 at the National Poetry Slam. Paul is the Senior Poetry Fellow in The Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis and Poetry Editor of The Offing Magazine, which won a Whiting Literary Magazine Award from the Whiting Foundation.

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