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Above: my neighbor’s feet, fussing from room to room,

velvet hooves tendering my head. Was the fruitcake

curdling? Would the mail make it there on time (it must

make it there on time)? Below: I try to light

the stove. Little clicks of the tongue, heat and water, my altar.

Underground: my grandfather breathes through a silk jacket,

a dandelion mane resting between his lips. Here: every living

thing is an altar. Sweet worms kiss his knuckles to sleep,

loose doorknobs I open: story after story. My family:

a spiral staircase, a fish spine picked clean, the snail’s

miasmic song. 1982: sun gasping through splintering snow,

a lemon slice folded in my mother’s cup, a generous

bulb, a lighthouse across oceans she can not see. 1985: we slept in

a split-level attic, squirrels running across

the beams. 1964: my grandfather offers my mother one egg.

Her brother looks on, fists full of ash. 1967: to make

the body dance with sticks and stones to break alone. Within:

prison, rose finch feathers float through bars, what he can not

talk about. My grandfather sings to me in a ladybug-speckled coffin,

the color of good teeth. Above: my grandmother keeps

heaps upon heaps of oil containers, poured and repurposed

in hunched Fanta plastic. This living can be so quiet sometimes,

you can hear the lights humming. Moss slinks into my walls

and is painted over, white to mint. I touch

the wall, these porous lives, this dense understory. Today: I cut

a telescope in two to see everything inside, out:


from How to Not Be Afraid of EverythingFind more by Jane Wong at the library

Copyright © 2021 Jane Wong
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Jane Wong Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.