Quotes Galore: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous By Ocean Vuong

Quotes Galore: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous By Ocean Vuong


It’s been a while since I’ve read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. And despite me not really liking the content of the book, I have to admit that some of the quotes in the novel really got to me.

It has been months since I last read the book, and still sometimes I find myself going back to my highlighted quotes in kindle just to read about them. While the storyline wasn’t exactly something that I could get into, I still admired how Ocean Vuong wrote his book. It was written so beautifully and so poetically that one cannot help but to be pulled into the story.

Due to that, today I decide to dedicate a post just for the quotes that I loved from On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. Enjoy.



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The first time you hit me, I must have been four. A hand, a flash, a reckoning. My mouth a blaze of touch.


“Have you ever made a scene, and then put yourself inside it? Have you ever watched yourself from behind, going further and deeper into that landscape, away from you?”



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



“Stop, Ma. Quit it. Please.”


I looked at you hard, the way I had learned, by then, to look into the eyes of my bullies.


Because freedom, I am told, is nothing but the distance between the hunter and its prey.


And so I ran out the door, down the black summer streets. I ran until I forgot I was ten, until my heartbeat was all I could hear of myself.





Every history has more than one thread, each thread a story of division.





You once told me that the human eye is god’s loneliest creation. How so much of the world passes through the pupil and still it holds nothing. The eye, alone in its socket, doesn’t even know there’s another one, just like it, an inch away, just as hungry, as empty.


What do we mean when we say survivor? Maybe a survivor is the last one to come home, the final monarch that lands on a branch already weighted with ghosts.



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



When does a war end? When can I say your name and have it mean only your name and not what you left behind?


If we are lucky, the end of the sentence is where we might begin. If we are lucky, something is passed on, another alphabet written in the blood, sinew, and neuron; ancestors charging their kin with the silent propulsion to fly south, to turn toward the place in the narrative no one was meant to outlast.





What is a country but a borderless sentence, a life?





They say that trauma affects not only the brain, but the body too, its musculature, joints, and posture.


Madness can sometimes lead to discovery, that the mind, fractured and short-wired, is not entirely wrong.



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



Whether we want to or not, we are traveling in a spiral, we are creating something new from what is gone.


Sometimes our words are few and far between, or simply ghosted. In which case the hand, although limited by the borders of skin and cartilage, can be that third language that animates where the tongue falters.


I read that parents suffering from PTSD are more likely to hit their children. Perhaps there is a monstrous origin to it, after all. Perhaps to lay hands on your child is to prepare him for war. To say possessing a heartbeat is never as simple as the heart’s task of saying yes yes yes to the body.





“I’m not a monster. I’m a mother.”




From the Latin root monstrum, a divine messenger of catastrophe, then adapted by the Old French to mean an animal of myriad origins: centaur, griffin, satyr. To be a monster is to be a hybrid signal, a lighthouse: both shelter and warning at once.



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



“You’re not a monster,” I said. But I lied. What I really wanted to say was that a monster is not such a terrible thing to be.


You’re a mother, Ma. You’re also a monster. But so am I—which is why I can’t turn away from you. Which is why I have taken god’s loneliest creation and put you inside it. Look.





Can one take pleasure in loss without losing oneself entirely?





What made a woman who named herself and her daughter after flowers call her grandson a dog? A woman who watches out for her own, that’s who.


To love something, then, is to name it after something so worthless it might be left untouched—and alive. A name, thin as air, can also be a shield.


Some people say history moves in a spiral, not the line we have come to expect. We travel through time in a circular trajectory, our distance increasing from an epicenter only to return again, one circle removed.



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



The past is never a fixed and dormant landscape but one that is re-seen.





He was only nine but had already mastered the dialect of damaged American fathers.





A woman, a girl, a gun. This is an old story, one anyone can tell. A trope in a movie you can walk away from if it weren’t already here, already written down.


Sometimes I don’t know what or who we are. Days I feel like a human being, while other days I feel more like a sound. I touch the world not as myself but as an echo of who I was.


“That’s my mom. I came out her asshole and I love her very much. I am seven. Next year I will be eight. I’m doing fine. I feel good how about you? Merry Christmas Happy New Year.”





Because love, at its best, repeats itself.

Shouldn’t it?





A new immigrant, within two years, will come to know that the salon is, in the end, a place where dreams become the calcified knowledge of what it means to be awake in American bones—with or without citizenship—aching, toxic, and underpaid.


To be or not to be. That is the question.



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



I did not know then what I know now: to be an American boy, and then an American boy with a gun, is to move from one end of a cage to another.


Because a bullet without a body is a song without ears.


By then, violence was already mundane to me, was what I knew, ultimately, of love. Fuck. Me. Up. It felt good to name what was already happening to me all my life. I was being fucked up, at last, by choice.


Inside a single-use life, there are no second chances. That’s a lie but we live it. We live anyway.





There was something even more brutal and total than work—want.





There were colors I felt when I was with him. Not words—but shades, penumbras.


What if the body, at its best, is only a longing for body? The blood racing to the heart only to be sent back out, filling the routes, the once empty channels, the miles it takes to take us toward each other. Why did I feel more myself while reaching for him, my hand midair, than I did having touched him?


Perhaps it was not a destination I sought, but merely a continuation.



ocean vuong quotes



I drove my face into him as if into a climate, the autobiography of a season. Until I was numb.


Under the covers, we made friction of each other and fiction of everything else.





Do you remember the happiest day of your life? What about the saddest? Do you ever wonder if sadness and happiness can be combined, to make a deep purple feeling, not good, not bad, but remarkable simply because you didn’t have to live on one side or the other?





I looked at that dog, its ribs showing, dancing to French music and thought anything could happen. Anything. Even when the man stopped, walked over to the dog wagging its tail, and placed the treat in the dog’s open mouth, proving again that it was hunger, only hunger, not music that gave the dog its human skill, I still believed it. That anything could happen.



ocean vuong quotes



Sometimes, when I’m careless, I think survival is easy: you just keep moving forward with what you have, or what’s left of what you were given, until something changes—or you realize, at last, that you can change without disappearing, that all you had to do was wait until the storm passes you over and you find that—yes—your name is still attached to a living thing.


Sometimes, when I’m careless, I believe the wound is also the place where the skin reencounters itself, asking of each end, where have you been?





I want to insist that our being alive

is beautiful enough to be worthy of replication.


And so what? So what if all I ever made of my life was more of it?





Maybe we look into mirrors not merely to seek beauty, regardless how illusive, but to make sure, despite the facts, that we are still here. That the hunted body we move in has not yet been annihilated, scraped out. To see yourself still yourself is a refuge men who have not been denied cannot know.


I read that beauty has historically demanded replication. We make more of anything we find aesthetically pleasing, whether it’s a vase, a painting, a chalice, a poem. We reproduce it in order to keep it, extend it through space and time.





“You think I’m fucked up?”



“No,” I mumble, turning away. “I think you’re just you.”





In a world myriad as ours, the gaze is a singular act: to look at something is to fill your whole life with it, if only briefly.


This also means nothing, I know. But some nothings change everything after them.



ocean vuong quotes



I am trying to end the memory. But the thing about forever is you can’t take it back.


What if art was not measured by quantity but ricochets? What if art was not measured?



ocean vuong quotes



The truth is none of us are enough enough.





They say nothing lasts forever but they’re just scared it will last longer than they can love it.





They say addiction might be linked to bipolar disorder. It’s the chemicals in our brains, they say. I got the wrong chemicals, Ma. Or rather, I don’t get enough of one or the other. They have a pill for it. They have an industry. They make millions. Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness. I want to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and say, “It’s been an honor to serve my country.





I’m not with you because I’m at war with everything but you.





I’m sorry I keep saying How are you?


when I really mean Are you happy?



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



What have we become to each other if not what we’ve done to each other?


What are we if not what the light says we are?





“Hey,” he said, half-asleep, “what were you before you met me?”


“I think I was drowning.”


A pause.


“And what are you now?” he whispered, sinking.


I thought for a second. “Water.”





And maybe all names are illusions. How often do we name something after its briefest form? Rose bush, rain, butterfly, snapping turtle, firing squad, childhood, death, mother tongue, me, you.


All freedom is relative—you know too well—and sometimes it’s no freedom at all, but simply the cage widening far away from you, the bars abstracted with distance but still there.



on earth we're briefly gorgeous quotes



They will want you to succeed, but never more than them. They will write their names on your leash and call you necessary, call you urgent.


If, relative to the history of our planet, an individual life is so short, a blink of an eye, as they say, then to be gorgeous, even from the day you’re born to the day you die, is to be gorgeous only briefly.





They say if you want something bad enough you’ll end up making a god out of it.

But what if all I ever wanted was my life, Ma?





Isn’t that the saddest thing in the world, Ma? A comma forced to be a period?


A story, after all, is a kind of swallowing. To open a mouth, in speech, is to leave only the bones, which remain untold.






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