Poetry: “First Lagrangian Point” by Binh Nguyen

First Lagrangian Point

After all this world expands, I still carry you,
You and your hydrogens, in the light’s decline.
I call me insane, I call me unbearable, callow,
And fence my bedroom with apologies.
I thought I was good to have climbed this branch,
That a flaming heart could do nothing but good,
But bullets make survivors, not soldiers,
And I have been flying off since I detached,
Not joining a sane and bearable group of stars.

My friends, with their telescopes, had warned,
Had scolded, had fought with me before it happened,
But they were too outside to get it, right?
I stayed as I must and should, for I could mend you,
For if my insane heart burned enough, I could comfort
Your flares and your glares and the nightmares
Filled with emptiness. There was a pull, so urgent
That it disfigured my hand, and I caved in,
Fireflies on the street. You’d been singing to pit vipers
And I was convinced that I heard you.

I used to think that I only had one such orbit
Around the galactic center, that it was my one
And only shot. I met a main-sequence star,
Whom since the start I have not dared approach,
Afraid I’d do to them what has been done to me.
It was an overflow, I say, it was unfortunate,
But I know well that I was a chronic orchid,
That I let myself depend too much to act sane, 
To go on a strike or march through Petrograd.
What was I thinking? Why the cowardice?

I burned the pictures, tore the notes to shreds,
Blew up Lenin’s statues, purged Hatshepsut’s face.
But like I said—just like I said, of course!—
I still look for the constellation when I’m out,
Still flinch and shiver at the slightest signs of care,
And still compare, still freak out and still weep.
I should have known that this unbearable sheep
Deserves no sheepdog—Sorry, Rigel, I should stop.
I should go catch that scorpion by the door.

I thank the moon, I thank whosever tides
That washed my castle and washed you away.
I thank the black hole that kept me company,
The toddling planets that cooled my callow heart.
Maybe when I have aged, have reclaimed the songs,
Have lost the hydrogens, I will amble back
To that Tunisian coast, ascend that unused pyre,
Take it apart to give the homeless wooden homes.
Whatever bulge, whatever halo you now call home,
I wish you well, and hope we won’t cross skies.


Binh Nguyen (they/them) is a native of Hanoi, whose works fuse together theoretical astrophysics and literary allusions under the influence of classical Vietnamese poetry. Bình is soon to publish their translation of the Vietnamese narrative poem Truyện Kiều into English heroic couplets, and in the meantime, they analyze the faintest dwarf galaxies in the universe as an undergraduate researcher at the University of Arizona.