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Three Poems by Tommy Bui

The Sap Beads From the Trunk

and the hummingbirds sip from corries

cradled astride crests of Santa Anas

as the crickets churn their doubts

and prospects for oaks to arc their backs

auger well within the moss.

And so many petals shiver

at the ice churning within a cloud

that turns throbbing soil slush

and the sun centered in each seed


The butterfly emerges

and slowly dries her wings as

we too spill from our cocoons.

Skyline unleavened,

our collective palms needed to knead

affection for a city to rise again.

For curled in the oriole’s beak

resonates a swelling

certainty. Today’s debris makes tomorrow’s sturdy nests.

Wriggle me a bee please

with oceans stacked on antennas

and collapsed universes on proboscis.

The bones untangle and remember

old whale songs that reverberate

within misty marrows sepia parched.

Azure acres ascend and

make multitudes of medullas again.

Let’s find an eon inside an acorn.

The ocean suds

suggests an accord

tempered in a granule of ancient sand.


Wilshire and Normandie Station, Midnight

The grime gloms misty

and the calipers strain against the brakeman’s lever.

We tunnel together to destinations

that have long been rubbed off the manifest

and replaced with sweat-streaked


that could nary turn weak-fatigued necks

let alone

cranky twilight turnstiles.

On your alabaster bones

a pattern of cuneiform

has carved runes

of ancient birdsongs

and the grey-blue

speckles slung around

your unblinking irises

dislodges the moon

from the belly

of old and old once more.


The Sea Knows No Lament

The sea blue and folds over itself

over and countless times,

how the clippers haul creases

suggesting seams

on the brittle kirigami

of our wind-swept

paper-thin existence.


Tommy Vinh Bui is a librarian for the Los Angeles County Library. He was a 2015-16 American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and a 2018-19 Arts for LA Cultural Policy Fellow for the city of Inglewood. Bui’s poetry and artwork has been featured in Department of Cultural Affairs publications and he was a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. He also writes about the intersection of art and librarianship for the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. Many moons ago he was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Central Asia. And today volunteers as a transportation specialist for the American Red Cross. He’s learning French so he can wear a beret on Bastille Day.

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