Thomas Nguyen ~

Consider what remains: chipped yellow
            paint, roman candles, wilted gardenias,
so many photographs. Accept that

time makes things distant, that his
            absence doesn’t bleed into your memories
as much as it used to. Try harder and

harder to remember the last time
            you saw him, cords wrapped around
his legs like snakes, all white

and black, hidden underneath
            neatly-pressed khakis. And my melanomas,
he once showed you, with a smile.

My dermatologist taught me how
            to care for them. Watch him run his fingers
across the small, dark-brown, cancerous

growths on his hands
            one more time. See the green moss
scale the windows of his home, tower

over him, and realize that it never
            stops growing for anybody. Accept that
life always adds, how it always

adds, day by day.

About the poet:

Thomas Nguyen is a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied neuroscience and creative writing. This fall he will move to Manhattan to begin the master’s program in narrative medicine at Columbia University. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Healing Muse, Rust + Moth and Intima.

About the poem:

“Erasure was written about one of my dear professors who passed away in October of 2016. I started writing poetry at the beginning of my college career, and he was the professor of the very first poetry class I took. I thank him for all of his encouragement and wisdom when I knew next to nothing about poetry, just that I really did believe in the beauty and grace of words. He planted the seed that started it all for me. The poem draws from memories of my visits with him after his progressing cancer forced him into retirement. I wanted to contrast how life adds so much every day, but is also very heartless in how it takes away. The result is that memories we hold dear to us are often the same ones we find ourselves struggling to remember the most.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

About the Poem


4 thoughts on “Erasure”

  1. Very moving poem. I especially liked the line.”that his
    absence doesn’t bleed into your memories
    as much as it used to” Just the right way to say what we all experience when we lose someone.

    Thank you


  2. This poem touched me deeply, not sure exactly why. Maybe because my closest grammar-school friend (that’s a 60-yr friendship) was diagnosed with breast cancer yesterday only two weeks before our 50th high school reunion.

    “Accept that
    life always adds, how it always

    adds, day by day.”

    PS I will energize my subscription now for this sentence alone. Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Pulse.

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