A Story About Holes by Diana Khoi Nguyen


 A girl dug a hole at the beach, sent her siblings to fetch water.


I think she found pleasure in it. All things fall down, or want to,

so she dug and dug, her trowel falling deeper, the earth growing darker.


I think she thought in concentric circles, the tides coming

and going, overlapping each other. When she poured water in,

the hole filled up, then emptied, its walls caved in. She began again.

If she could have, she would have dug a hole every day, one

beside the other, then another, and another. A hole is a hole,

but none of them are the same.


Along a shore, no one can know how many holes there are.


Along a shore, no one can know which holes are hers.




I typed my brother into a box. The search took 0.39 seconds and

there were as many entries as there were members of our family:

five, to be precise, four if you count the one who didn’t think

he was one of us.


From Latin praecis- ‘cut short’, from the verb praecidere,

from prae ‘in advance’ + caedere ‘to cut’.


There is a hole inside the search box. A hole

and a frame, to delineate where things go in. The internet

doesn’t know my brother died. Oliver Nguyen at MyLife.com®

Age: 27.


He cut his one year-old self out of each frame. Three, five,

shy of two, thirteen year-old selves, too. Then at 24,

out of the whole picture.


Late in the evenings I walk in the middle of a road looking

forward, looking back, to see anything instead than nothing.


After death, does time keep on? Is he three now, or is it four?

I forget what day it is. About his birthday. Happy Afterlife,

no one says.


The road is empty. I go back to the box. “Oliver Khoi Nguyen . . .

no plus ones, no shares. Looks like you’ve reached the end. Looks

like you’ve reached the end.”




Hard to say, what could have happened.


—What happened?



—I didn’t die.


All night the trees stand in lamplight. From out in the universe,

they are gliding about an axis. Staying still is a kind of moving.


Inside the still Ponderosa pines, silk-thin threads of water

sometimes break, exploding in small pops of music. A hole

in the air of their capillaries. A song of holes.




I am a particle of the anti-past. A particle and its counterpart

quickly destroy each other. They blip into existence and then

they’re out. The past and the anti-past multiply. 1 + 1 is 3.


As long as there are more particles than counterparts.


A history of particles: Once there were two particles, one

was a hole, the other had a stick. What came first, the hole

or the stick? I don’t know, but soon there were more holes,

more sticks. Sticks found in holes, holes made by sticks.


Hawking showed that black holes can, like other holes, or sticks,

shrink and die. But there’s a way out. Out of the black hole.


“If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up—”




This is a story about two particles. They are traveling near

an event horizon. Life at the edge can be peculiar. One

of the pair falls in, and the one who falls has a negative energy

which sucks out energy from the black hole.


The other particle, its counterpart, escapes with positive energy.

Naturally. No one knows why.


All night the pair stay silent in the dark, not touching.

The one who escapes informs us about the one who didn’t.


This is a passing of their story from inside the black hole

to the outside. We used to think nothing ever came back out.


So here we are. One is here, the other one, over there, but

we know what happened to him. That he exists.

Click here for the PDF.

Contributor Notes

Diana Khoi Nguyen’s debut collection, Ghost Of (Omnidawn, 2018), was selected by Terrance Hayes for the Omnidawn Open Contest. In addition to winning the 92Y "Discovery" / Boston Review Poetry Contest and being shortlisted for the National Book Award, she is a PhD candidate in creative writing at the University of Denver.