Dear Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, bodily fluids and functions punctuate bonds between characters, time and space. A fart echoed from a grandmother to a grandson. A public urination by a defiant, anguished mother. The meaty, minty breaths of johns and bullies.


This brings to mind, the fingerprint scent of a person’s closet that laundry detergent could never seal off. It took me awhile to recognize that it was uniquely mine. This smell, much like the impossibility of looking into your own eye, is rarely acknowledged apart from yourself. Initially, I thought it was a new clothes smell that lingered–a sharp tang mixed with cardboard.

There is a woman, a man, an entire family, an ancestry of people buried in graves with a matching scent that have soaked deep into their sheets and pajamas. They are somewhere. I may never meet them.

About jaclynfre

Recipe adventurer, fast walker, sporadic writer, aunt, sister and daughter
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8 Responses to Dear Ocean Vuong

  1. Terje says:

    I like how you start this post inspired by the book. I have never heard of the fingerprint scent of a person’s closet. I always thought that only old people’s closets had a distinct smell.

  2. Wow, I read to be convinced to read his book, but end up so impressed with your own ideas. Your line about the impossibility of looking into one’s own eyes… I am not very attuned to smell and never include it in my writing, you show what a lack that is.

    • jaclynfre says:

      Vuong’s writing is so precise, a true poet. And his storytelling is what you imagine when children hear or absorb adult truths at a young age–the fear that is gripping the nation’s imagination at this point.

  3. vivian chen says:

    I loved that book so much–absolutely gorgeous writing. Your writing and language is right on par. I also really connected to your ideas in this post because smell is such a strong trigger for me.

    • jaclynfre says:

      Thank you for stopping by. I realized after I posted, that I lost the original intent to write a letter to Ocean Vuong. I plan to write a more proper letter to him after i finish the book. Smell is an incredible portal to memory and imagination.

  4. I love the writing and thinking of Ocean Vuong. His interview with Krista Tippet on her podcast, “On Being”, is one of my all time favourites. I keep revisiting his ideas and your writing captures – I had to read the last paragraph over and over as I imagined the scene, the characters, the moment of curiosity. Beautiful and brilliant writing.

    • jaclynfre says:

      I’m intrigued by how he constructs and deconstructs time in his storytelling. I’m looking forward to checking out his poetry as well. What would you recommend?

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