Paul Tran


America Is a Dream I Must Wake Up From

Nobody knows this is how we lived—
I lie next to you
in the blue
room flooding
with dawn. 
You kick                awake, 
rest your hand 
against my cheek. 
I turn         and smell your fingers, 
which I want
inside me.
The ceiling
fan whirl 
like helicopter

taking me 
to the battlefield 
where my grandmother buries 
her child
in the dirt:
a pigeon
with its chest 
split open,

its bleeding heart.
Call it love: 
Call it a pattern: 
my legs     held up

as though on the skyward curve of a swing. 
I can fly off
into heaven
from here. 
On my back, 
I pretend
it’s desire 
not another soldier 
his machine 
firing through my body 
—a sheet of blood 

in the dust-lit room. 



Paul Tran is a Pushcart Prize & Best of the Net-nominated poet. Their work appears or is forthcoming in The New YorkerPrairie Schooner, & RHINO, which gave them an Editor’s Prize. They received fellowships & residencies from Kundiman, VONA, Poets House, Lambda Literary Foundation, Napa Valley Writers Conference, Home School, Vermont Studio Center, The Conversation, & Palm Beach Poetry Festival. They’re the first Asian American in 19 years to represent the Nuyorican Poets Cafe at the National Poetry Slam & Individual World Poetry Slam, where they placed Top 10. Paul lives in Brooklyn, where they serve as Poetry Editor at The Offing& Poet in Residence at Urban Word NYC.