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Category: Ocean Vuong

Color Scheme

after the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1968 photo taken by Nick Ut of a Viet Cong guerilla being executed by South Vietnam’s national police chief

This is not

how death is made

permanent. Not

the camera’s flash,

the irony of sunlight

on gunmetal,

but the hand gripping the pistol

(a yellow hand)

and the face squinting

behind the barrel

(a yellow face).

Like all captured life

this one fails

to reveal the picture.

Like where the bullet

entered his skull,

the phantom of a rose

leapt into light, or how,

after smoke cleared,

from behind the fool

with blood on his cheek

and the dead dog by his feet,

a white man

was lighting a cigarette.

from Poetry Northwest WEBMore by Ocean Vuong from the library

Copyright © Ocean Vuong
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.