What I would say about certain trees
is that to master love one must be devastated by it.
Certain trees know.
A poem has nothing to do with fact,
though both are made things.
I explain that certain trees know
certain facts, but what poems.
Our son is a rutabaga.
To him, everything
is a rutabaga.
What were we talking about last night,
listening to the fan, falling asleep?
I’ve been thinking about things
as the source from which all thought rises.
Not as omens, signs, talismans, tokens, symbols,
figures of speech, or ideas.
A thing introduces a thought and is never more than a thing.
Yes, that sounds right.
The E detached from my silver love ring;
there was no meaning to it, though now I know
the saleswoman was likely false. Her calming nod
against fragility. It will tarnish,
but it will not crack
as the plates will crack. The thought
of you not listening when I ask again
what it means.
Family heirloom plates I hate. These small windows
bring in no light.
I’ve stared at what’s most broken in you.
to the flat sheet sliding off of me,
a silent body is not always asleep.
Even when happiest I think about dying.
I want to remember how
his face turned down
and took away our light
to become a first order of love.
A woman once opened my hand in her smoked palms
and told me I would be dead in a week.
Then put out your cigarette right here,
I dared, pointing to
my truth spot
or whatever she called it,
a whisper of a wrinkle on my skin.
That’s the story you’d like me to tell
as our son naps fitfully in the other room.
Also the one about swimming
on a high floor of the Hancock Tower.
Both stories end the same way.
Crust of sugar at the bottom of your glass.
Keys to whatever doors we’ve forgotten.
Mostly used lipstick in Shanghai Nights,
a garish red. The paper sheath of a straw
which for a precious five minutes served as his toy.
Little notes to myself I can’t bear to throw away.
All waste we shall bequeath to our heir. Our air.
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Chang
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.