under the chiming bell

under the chiming bell
I learn to move as ghosts do
after thirty five years of belching
I finally qualify as a trophy
in the woods I am mostly small
~ insignificant ~
in love with nothing and no one
boredom is a kind of armor
capitalism no longer contagious
seeing with my own eyes
each raindrop ceasing to exist
still I fear birth as much as death
the non-consent of existence
will never be resolved in no lifetime
has anyone ever lived
through someone else’s ending
or just me?
so weird being allowed to enter
not as a servant
but as a guest
the crudeness of patronage
all those childhood prayers
wasted essentially
in the end I was not too beautiful for this
failed to be much of an exception at all
at least I can still dream
to possess the kind of face
often inscribed into archways
mid-scream like a gargoyle with nothing
better to do
the holy don’t need us
wretches of a different order
looking for someone or nothing
I was supposed to be staff
then everything changed
and it didn’t even matter I was born wrong
will someone tell someone who I am
will someone please please tell me


Copyright © 2021 by Jenny Zhang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My first artist residency was in the woods. So much beauty on stolen land. I looked at photos of former residents over the decades. Does it need to be said what they looked like and who gets to breathe fresh air? I was used to being the one cooking and serving and cleaning after others and now, I was on the other side. Being ‘chosen’ for these kinds of experiences is confusing. To go from scarcity and deprivation to being waited on warps the psyche and bears no relation to actually redistributing resources or changing the material conditions for the collective. How to resolve that meritocracy is a delusion and one I’ve benefited from?”
Jenny Zhang