Christmas Eve, 2016


By Joshua Nguyen

& on this day, the Cincinnati Bengals miss the game-winning field goal & the Houston Texans
clinch a playoff spot.

& the living room erupts & we stay drunk till midnight. there is a hidden box of Cognac my father finds in the cupboard. no one steals the vase from my grandmother’s grave. instead, she rises from the oven & broils her famous tht kho. my lap crumbles into solid yolk while the tv plays her favorite episode of Paris By Night where I am a perished background extra. center stage, the Viet singer does his best to keep up with the audio track. fake fog bursts my lungs & my family collects the debris like the rainfall I usually am.

JJ Watt (DE) screams and twirls his towel in the air

& for a moment, i forget my cousin is a cop. & for a moment, i have the courage to speak back & his eyes ebb into the glass. he stops saying the n-word in front of his black wife & lets her daughter sing in Korea. opens up about his anger issues. about how he knows he is the least-liked child & his stint in prison. together, we superglue the table where his fist made love with a splintered tongue.

Deandre Hopkins (WR) kneels and prays to God

& i don’t mind that Cousin Angie gives me a gift card that says To:Angie, From:Sam & i don't know who Sam is & i don’t catch fire under her wall of thirty-seven crucifixes. instead, i find god in teaching my six-year-old cousin Bella how to backstab in UNO. she makes me draw eight and i hear life doesn't go easy on nobody & my brother opens the front door with plans to move back from Seoul. in the backyard, i clear the moss from the hoop. we continue our one-on-one game where the winner gets his whole stack of X-men comics. loser must sit next to dad at Christmas mass but at least my ex’s father isn’t in the Vietnamese choir this year & i’m not in the front pew. to my surprise, the white man in the back is actually in the right mass & the white man across the street finally moves away.

the players rush the field, the fans in the arena hug complete strangers

& workers in Chinatown finally get Christmas bonuses & my aunt finally takes a day off. we walk along Bellaire Blvd & witness the neon sunset. another fender-bender is accompanied by the scent of sweet milk bread from the engines. tapioca shops are required to use actual green tea leaves & i forget to withdraw cash but, today, it’s okay because credit card minimums decrease to two dollars. i buy my aunt boba. she doesn’t fight for the bill. the corner unfolds & my fortune collapses from her tongue: Yao Ming comes out of retirement & raises a third banner. kids grow thick beards to keep their joy warm. & the potholes, the potholes are full of liquor & love & excuses but my family drives through them. my body bruised from the flatbed where my cousin would get too close & i would imagine the one bump that would let my family fly.

 

Joshua Nguyen is a national collegiate champion (2014) from Houston, Texas. He has been published in The Offing, The Acentos ReviewFreezeray PoetryButton Poetry. He is a tapioca connoisseur and plays an aggressive-tight strategy in poker.