Again a Solstice

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked 
for bacon in my sandwich, and then 

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar: 

I did not use a knife. I lied 
about what he did to my faith 
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake. 
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom 
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk. 
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke, 
the lifeguard perilously close to diving. 
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick. 

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake. 
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion 

I'll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake, 
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem? 
It means today 
I'm correcting my mistakes.

It means I don't want to be lonely.

More by Jennifer Chang

The Skin's Broken Aria

I cross the street
and my skin falls off. Who walks
to an abandoned lake? Who
abandons lakes? I ask questions
to evade personal statements. When you are
skinless, you cannot bear to be
more vulnerable. With skin, I
would say I am in love with
Love as in that old-time song
crooners like to croon. With skin,
I would wear elbow-length opera gloves
of pearly satin. Protect my skin.
Hide it. There is no skin
like my skin. How I miss it —
I miss it as I would a knitted bonnet, a
pewter teaspoon to stir sugar into hot water.
My great passion was my skin. The lover
I loved. They don’t
sell skin at Wal-Mart. And really, how
could I, humanely, buy it? Would you ever
give me your skin? This is a terrible world
we live in. There are mistakes and
batteries littering a junk drawer,
where Mother would hide my house keys and Father
would store his eyeballs. Do you know
Puccini? Do you spill silk
at the gorgeous onslaught of love, of Pinkerton’s
lurking return? Butterfly had no skin either
but you could not tell from the outer left
balcony. As I lay in a bed
of my dead skin, I dream of Butterfly
and what she could have done instead:
run away to this little room
to lose her aching voice, to listen
to the hourly ringing of bells
that is really the souring birdsong
of a child, skinned and
laughing, a child that will never be hers.

Sonogram

Dark matter, are you 
sparkless 

for lack of knowing
better? The room 

you've spun is distant
and indivisible—

a flickering lapsarian,
you satisfy no mute

progress but 
collapse, spiral, winded

by unwinding. Dear 
enigma kid, dear psychic

soft spot, I write you
from under eight spastic 

lights, each falser than stars, 
to promise I'll will 

the darkness out of you 
or I'll will myself 

to trying. Twisted 
mister, my incipient

sir, you be in charge 
of the what-if, I'll master why.

Freedom in Ohio

                        on my birthday

I want a future
making hammocks
out of figs and accidents.
Or a future quieter
than snow. The leopards
stake out the backyard
and will flee at noon.
My terror is not secret,
but necessary,
as the wild must be,
as Sandhill cranes must
thread the meadow
yet again. Thus, autumn
cautions the cold
and the wild never want
to be wild. So what
to do about the thrum
of my thinking, the dangerous
pawing at the door?
Yesterday has no harmony
with today. I bought
a wool blanket, now shredded
in the yard. I abided by
dwelling, thought nothing
of now. And now?
I’m leopard and crane,
all’s fled.

Related Poems

Credo


You say wind is only wind
& carries nothing nervous
in its teeth.
        I do not believe it.

I have seen leaves desist
                        from moving
although the branches
                      move, & I
believe a cyclone has secrets
the weather is ignorant of.
                           I believe
in the violence of not knowing.

I've seen a river lose its course
& join itself again,
                  watched it court
a stream & coax the stream
into its current,

              & I have seen
rivers, not unlike
                 you, that failed to find
their way back.

                    I believe the rapport
between water & sand, the advent
from mirror to face.

                   I believe in rain
to cover what mourns,
                     in hail that revives
& sleet that erodes, believe
whatever falls
             is a figure of rain

& now I believe in torrents that take
everything down with them.

The sky calls it quits,
                        or so I believe,
when air, or earth, or air
has had enough.

               I believe in disquiet,
the pressure it plies, believe a cloud
to govern the limits of night.

                          I say I,
but little is left to say it, much less
mean it--
           & yet I do.

                        Let there be
no mistake:
        I do not believe
things are reborn in fire.
They're consumed by fire

& the fire has a life of its own.