Pledge

Wendy Xu
The diagnosis was god, twice a day until the spirit
untangles itself. I took a trip into unscripted
days past, teenagers submit to the window an open
facing yawn. A walnut fell into the grave
of my loved one and stayed there beating patient
like a word. I was still unmoved by disbelief watching
my father mumble the pledge and hot white stars
he can’t remember. Nobody got hurt, some un-
fulfilled potential exits the room. Enter, knowledge.
Men came to dispel ambiguity and raced 
my intention to a hard boiling over. Each new decade
we stayed was a misinterpretation
of genre. We showed our teeth over the years to those
who would listen. In the face of the absent subject 
I felt my desire go flaccid. The leaves fell dutifully one
by one from their limbs. But I wrote to you against
all odds. Money. Paperwork. Love’s heavy
open door. Critique. Indignity. Vision and often
enough time.

More by Wendy Xu

My Dissent and My Love Are Woven Inside Me

I commune with the text by way of railing against the text

The molecular processes of you are never finished

I move through air in the early fall, a cooling spittle, high heat
      days are gone

When the troops leave the replica city, you see that its
      battlements are written in green

A Western style of defense, no birds, all men

Same plaza, white stones, black columns, no memory

You want to walk along the path meant for military vehicles
      and are denied

You want to try falling down where others had before you, and
      are unceremoniously denied

You wanted permission to travel to the mainland to see your
      mother

All of your desires were completely impractical

That is, you did not want to atone for anything you had done

Praxis

I had put down in writing my fear of the war

I too pined for pastoral description

The blue of the water was the blue of the world

Newness does not, for me, equal satisfaction

A finite number of concentric rings I push out into space

A tedious fabric moving through time without malice

An act of oration, rebellion, inventory, fantasy

The sound of the earth closing its one good eye over me

Imagine: you reach out towards the margin’s white hand

You do what your poems want and are clean

When you lay down your thorns you will be done

You do not take up arms against anyone

Looking at My Father

It’s the inside which comes out, as I contemplate
him there half in sunlight, weeding diligently
a Midwestern lawn. On my persons, I have only notes
and a drying pen, the memory of onion blossoms
scenting in a window. Reflection is my native medium.
I am never arriving, only speaking briefly on material
conditions between myself and others. My country
inoculates me lovingly, over time. My country grasps me
like desire. I will show you my credentials, which is to say
my vivid description, if you ask. Here we are, my father
and I, never hostile, a small offering: pointless cut flowers
appear on the kitchen table when one finally arrives
into disposable income. Still possible. Am I living? Do I
accept revision as my godhead and savior?
I do and I am, and in the name of my Chinese father now
dragging the tools back inside, brow shining but always
a grin, faithless except to protect whatever I still have time
to become, Amen.

Related Poems

Grief Work

I have gazed the black flower blooming
her animal eye. Gacela oscura. Negra llorona.

Along the clayen banks I follow her-astonished,
gathering grief’s petals she lets fall like horns.

Why not now go toward the things I love?

Like Jacob’s angel, I touched the garnet of her wrist,
and she knew my name. And I knew hers—
it was Auxocromo, it was Cromóforo, it was Eliza.
It hurtled through me like honeyed-rum.

When the eyes and lips are touched with honey
what is seen and said will never be the same.

Eve took the apple in that ache-opened mouth,
on fire and in pieces, from the knife’s sharp edge.

In the photo her fist presses against the red-gold
geometry of her thigh. Black nylon, black garter,
unsolvable mysterium—I have to close my eyes to see.

Achilles chasing Hektor round the walls of Ilium
three times. How long must I circle
the high gate above her knees?

Again the gods put their large hands in me,
move me, break my heart like a clay jar of wine,
loosen a beast from some darklong depth—

my melancholy is hoofed. I, the terrible beautiful
Lampon, a shining devour-horse tethered
at the bronze manger of her collarbones.

I do my grief work with her body—labor
to make the emerald tigers in her hips leap,
lead them burning green
to drink from the violet jetting her.

We go where there is love, to the river,
on our knees beneath the sweet water.
I pull her under four times
until we are rivered. We are rearranged.

I wash the silk and silt of her from my hands—
now who I come to, I come clean to, I come good to.