'I'm beginning to hear a needle drop.' Poet reflects on family ghosts | KUOW News and Information

'I'm beginning to hear a needle drop.' Poet reflects on family ghosts

Denver poet Diana Khoi Nguyen's family is haunted by bees. 

It's easier for them to speak about the bees than it is to speak about her brother's suicide. But in her new book of poems, "Ghost Of," Diana is talking.

The poems move through spaces and silences, winding in and out of family photos her brother cut himself out of with an X-acto knife. In one poem, she explores how this removal of his body from the frame presaged his removal of himself from his body.  

Her parents never say her brother died, or committed suicide. Instead they say he was lost - like a shoe, or a glove. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact one of these resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
800-273-8255

Hotline available 24/7. Online chat also available.

Crisis Text Line741741
Text from anywhere in the U.S. with a trained crisis counselor. Available 24/7.

Forefront Suicide Prevention (UW)
Information, training, and resources. Not a crisis line.

The Vietnamese language, says Diana, doesn't have a subjunctive mood. That's the mood that is used in many languages to express regret: should have, could have, would have. Both the language and her family tend to try and look forward. In her work, however, Diana looks closely at the past, so that it isn't lost.

"Triptych," a poem

The first pane of Diana Khoi Nguyen's poem 'Triptych.'
Credit Courtesy Diana Khoi Nguyen.
The second pane of Diana Khoi Nguyen's poem 'Triptych.'

The third and final pane of Diana Khoi Nguyen's poem 'Triptych.'