Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Night Sky with Exit Wounds Summary and Analysis of "Homewrecker"


The poem "Homewrecker" is the fourteenth poem in Ocean Vuong's Night Sky with Exit Wounds, and it is the second poem of the book's second section. It recounts the speaker's experiences with a lover and posits the idea that their love was forbidden and had to necessarily result in death and destruction. Based on context clues throughout the collection and also the close correspondence of many unclear speakers in the collection to Ocean Vuong himself, it is most likely that this is because the love being spoken of is homosexual, and between two boys. At the poem's conclusion, the speaker continues to reflect on the muddled pains and pleasures of their forbidden love with the subject, saying that they loved each other like "a knife on the tongue turning / into a tongue."


Like the poem which immediately precedes it, "Thanksgiving 2006," "Homewrecker" is about the way that the speaker's own sex life and body can be linked to violence or ill fate. Unlike "Thanksgiving 2006," however, "Homewrecker" is written in couplets rather than singleton lines, suggesting a sort of mutual entanglement or implication in the events that result from the speaker's love affair. The "Homewrecker" of the title is neither the speaker or his lover, but rather both of them as their actions implode any chance they have to build a future or "home" together. Moreover, the seemingly negative reaction that the lover's family has to the love affair represents another kind of homewrecking at work, fueled by the actions of both the speaker and his lover.

The poem's rhythm and punctuation are exceptionally choppy, constantly being interrupted, revised, or revisited through the use of colons, dashes, and ampersands. It is, after all, an ampersand which begins the poem and first recounts how the speaker and his lover "danced" and "loved." This not only gives the reader the impression of the trauma or negativity associated with this particular love affair, but also cues them from the very start to the idea that will later be expressed explicitly—that is, that the speaker constantly revisits this experience through memory as the years go on: "Because the year is a distance / we've traveled in circles." Similar revision and revisitation occurs in the "If not" constructions towards the poem's end and the "Which is to say" constructions even further down the page.

One other aspect of "Homewrecker" that demands attention is its creation of the house metaphor that, in moments, bleeds into the real house of the lovers' encounters. Just after the stunning image of "the day clos[ing] / into a coffin" when the lovers' lips meet, we are told that "in the museum of the heart / there are two headless people building a burning house." As we have already seen, this house is symbolic of the futile hope for stability and domestic bliss possessed by the speaker and his lover. Next, we are told that "There was always the shotgun above the fireplace." Here, it is unclear whether the speaker is figuratively referring to the burning house—in which case, they are talking figuratively about the precariousness of their situation with their lover—or if they are literally referring to the house in which they meet up to kiss. The latter would suggest or be evocative of a sense of real danger or violent repercussions accompanying their love acts. In any case, the poem itself does not resolve these tensions but rather revels in them: it is both houses being wrecked, and both implications of the shotgun are accepted. The body is not just an instrument of pleasure, but also a weapon like a knife. In the speaker's recollections of their moments with their lover, they know better than to think of the tongue as just a tongue. Even so, this is precisely how the poem leaves us, with the tongue becoming weapon, then tongue again.