I spent all afternoon trying
to match some animal’s tracks
to my own. I cannot make
good use of my time.
I cannot declare buoyancy.
I have been loitering
in backyard sheds again.
These days, there is moss growing
in all the wrong places.
What does it mean
that I’ve been willing
my white hairs in?
That I’ve been staring
at the microwave for hours?
Judgment cuts through me
like a magician sawing
a woman in half. Like shearing
a sleeping lamb, loosened
of its woven weight.
My debacle of self:
a cold fried egg
you can’t refurbish.
Let it be known:
no one wants to know
about the woman who coughs.
No one wants to dangle
about like a loose doorknob.
We should all turn away
from the spider stretching its legs,
feeling a crime coming on.
Away from the neighbor boy
who pisses on a fire
to put it out. To render the fat
of judgment, I’ll drain it
and keep it in a jar. A pile of flies
will gather in the jar.
This buzzing cloud,
my wrong over June.
WHEN YOU DIED
Were you hungry? Were your feet clean
or covered in dirt? Who cut your hair?
Did the oil in your hair smell of gasoline?
Corn? Mint leaves? The fields of wheat,
were they as tall as a building in a city
swarming with pigeons in your dream of it?
Was I a pigeon in this city in your dream? Were you
hungry? Were there ants in the rice? Did their feet
wash the rice clean? Did you like your rice clean?
Can you touch the inside of my ear
and say it feels like the inside of your ear? Like a rock
you kept in your pocket, from the red morning’s
empty haul? Was the rock you cleaned pink? Were you
very hungry? Were you full and pink and
tall, your feet a marble slab I could wipe clean?
HOW TO NOT BE AFRAID OF EVERYTHING
How to not punch everyone in the face.
How to not protect everyone’s eyes from
my own punch. I have been practicing
my punch for years, loosening my limbs.
My jaw unhinged creates a felony I refuse
to go to court for. The fat of spam pools
in the sun, reminding me of my true feelings.
My feelings leak from my ear like a bad cold
in a bad storm. Stars huddle in a corner,
little radiators sweating out their fear.
A possum reaches his arm up from a porch.
I hold onto his arm for a little while, for
a little warmth. At night, my subterranean eye
begins to rove. Song of the underground,
song of the rat tribe. I see my mother in
an apron splattered with viscera I will eat
for dinner. To gut her work out, to work
her guts out. Can we talk about privilege?
Can I say I always look behind me? I always
look behind me. I always take a step forward
like I’m about to save myself from toppling
over. The bare bones of it: some of us know
that spoiled meat still counts as protein.
That a horse’s neck snaps from the weight
of what it carries, from the weight of what
we give it to carry. I bundle up a sack of
clouds, empty of rain and fear and lightning.
Jane Wong is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016). Her poems have appeared in places such as Best American Poetry 2015, Best New Poets 2012, Pleiades, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Volta, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. She is a Kundiman fellow and has received fellowships and scholarships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley, and the Fine Arts Work Center. She lives in Seattle and teaches at UW Bothell and the Hugo House.