And yet, in a time where the mainstream seems to continually question the power and validity of art, and especially of poetry, its need, its purpose, in a generation obsessed with appearances, of status updates and smiling selfies bathed (corrected?) in the golden light of filters, in which it has become more and more difficult for us to say aloud, to one another: I am hurt. I am scared. What happens now?, the poem, like the fire escape, as feeble and thin as it is, has become my most concentrated architecture of resistance. A place where I can be as honest as I need to—because the fire has already begun in my home, swallowing my most valuable possessions—and even my loved ones. My uncle is gone. I will never know exactly why. But I still have my body and with it these words, hammered into a structure just wide enough to hold the weight of my living. I want to use it to talk about my obsessions and fears, my odd and idiosyncratic joys. I want to leave the party through the window and find my uncle standing on a piece of iron shaped into visible desperation, which must also be (how can it not?) the beginning of visible hope. I want to stay there until the building burns down. I want to love more than death can harm. And I want to tell you this often: That despite being so human and so terrified, here, standing on this unfinished staircase to nowhere and everywhere, surrounded by the cold and starless night—we can live. And we will.
Walking Alone
for Li-Young Lee

The fog presses in
like a second body.
A single spruce
at the edge of the field
already dimming.
So many words this morning
and only the breath says here.
Your hand extends
from the diaphanous wall.
I reach for it
and a door, the color of fog,
You can speak now
you said. You can say
So I stood up
on my hind legs
and listened
to the clouds scraping
against the sky
Ocean Vuong | Walking Alone (for Li-Young Lee)