At 3:41 last night I woke up to blink for an hour.
In a borrowed room, the light was unfamiliar
and the small window that doesn’t close let some in.
Where can I go tomorrow?
The roads are plentiful but they’re all narrow;
I can stop anywhere at 9, maybe stretch to 11,
but nowhere…

I don’t remember driving
or even having the idea but I’m here.
Every few minutes the stillness yields to
a family with a full bike rack
a couple whose back plate says Oregon
a group of teens singing out their windows.
It’s almost 2 and I’ve been neutral
since many cars ago.

If any of them stopped I would’ve said hi.
Lovely, to meet people who ask my name,
who see what might be and not know what was.
I’d answer questions I’ve already been asked
with words I’m just learning to use.
I’d gush of a past that hasn’t happened
and then I’d paint next year,
next year,
a dream of all that is different.

A truck rumbles through and my imagination
stops talking.
I’m here but don’t remember how
I started longing for a life that’s not been lived yet.

Lately, this house hears clearer sounds.

Doors closing and cars backing out

a pair of feet hurrying past

the other fixed on the floor.

Last night, the neighbors reminded us

it’s summer.

Their laughs snuck through the walls.

Faint, though,

and dying by the time it reached our side.

The last time this house heard words

they were loud and sharp.

Blame, then self-cover

shame, then conjecture.

At last, a crescendo.

This house hears better since.

It’s so quiet this morning,

it struck me when I left.

I don’t remember exactly when I started to really, I mean, really, like LA. It wasn’t during college, I’m positive, when telling others “I’m hanging out in LA this weekend” meant I also had to be casual about it because otherwise how could I look cool? …


I want to feel the music sing on my spine. I want to hear the beauty when my eyes open at the world. I want to see my own heartbeat when I’m loved.

Always, always, always, I want to live this life.

I’ve been trying to see color

where there is only monochrome.

I am weary by this photo.

But I have only it, for reconciliation

between my imagination and my history.

A panicked helicopter above

22 Gia Long Street,


an American trying to help.

But with just one arm extended

for a hundred desperate eyes,

I wonder what came next?

Time ages the generations.

Ours is kept at distance

from the story

of what happened.

Think of all that sorrow:

Our fathers’ and mothers’ words

still buried memories

waiting for their first breath.

Is that all that’s left?

I’m clutching for what to say,

if only I could ask:

Mom, Dad,

where were you that day?

AN IMAGE IS NOT TRUTH. It may be well far from it.

Last weekend, I hiked to the Wisdom Tree. Though I didn’t feel any wiser, I did find a lot of tourists. You wouldn’t be able to tell from this, though, which just reminds me how photography can do…

I’ve breathed in 31 years,
I plunge each down my lungs,
making room for a history
that’s thickening every day,
unsympathetic when I say:
I have only finite space.

I swell with my own past.
Failures, triumphs, and so much still
It’s baggage, all the same.

But today, I woke up before the sun.
I saw it rise
above the interstate.
Higher, higher, higher it went,
’til it climaxed on all the land
then drifted to sleep at the
other side of the world.
I chased its light as long as I could.

I’ve breathed in another day,
I’ll exhale as consent to keep going.

This is the heaviest I’ve ever been.
But I accept the weight.


In winter 2015, we rode the train from Berlin to Prague on a trip that started in NYC and ended in Mumbai. We were in transit frequently those two weeks, but this train ride stood out most. Crowded cars, no assigned seats, confused backpackers. I…

Donovan Bui

Casual musings on travel and living. Photos at

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