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I’ve been marinating lately in the thought that I could be rich as antithetical to bored
There is a kind of conceptual art where all you have to do is speak the sentence of the art’s description
Then you have understood the art and you exit the gallery
Or, Lawrence Weiner “some limestone some sandstone enclosed for some reason”
It has been arranged for you “top to butt”
I approach the threshold of a potential space delineated by tightly pulled red yarn
This reminds me of something outside of the intentions of this artwork, something about my grandmother whom I have not seen for several years
Here I am again with this abstract pang considering that I may write “immigrant pang”
Here you are again trying to excavate from my abstraction an opening through which you may enter
I have by accident irrevocably misunderstood this expensive piece of art and must exit the gallery
Though, lovingly someone grasps for me on the left
The sentence of the description of the gesture is perhaps “he grasps lovingly for me on the left”
When I am away from her I must describe her to you conceptually
You are not a conceptual artist like I am
I have panicked over reception, how towards you I may not be able to transcend the flatness of the page
How I may not be read as bodily
How I may only be read as bodily
Last night, a rotation of her sister’s face on the monochrome screen
The goal was to honor her whom we had been unable to appreciate in her lifetime
A projection of the unachievable eternal feminine
I felt connected only to her on my left
I sat with her in the deep armchair humming away from the light
Spliced with a single frame of the self who (which side) became monstrous?
Who eats whom
Under which flag?
Do not describe any more things to me as “ancient”
You are not allowed beyond the stone and the wall, the courtyard and what is beyond it
No answer still from the man I have been depending upon
And let that be a lesson to whom, for what purpose?
At least regard me at my best against a blue dusk
Flowers in my hair
Fixate on that image, “flowers in my hair”
The snow was coming down outside the window, beneath the sky
Perhaps I wanted to know you prepositionally
How and towards whom can I relate if by relation I diminish myself
I obsess over the problem of space
Deep space, no, personal space
It is not that necessarily you oppress me, rather that I have come to know myself only ever in relation to you and our relationship is historical
Let there be no visual representation of me without you
Adjust my gaze so that I may be warm enough to please you
The problem of having so many problems
In a painting: white is the prelude smeared over several figures
I roll an old apple between my hands feeling its rot
What else can I describe within the verbal frame “in today’s world”
Who is still living in “yesterday’s world?”
And who is their president
And what technologies drive their daily operations in the snow-globe of the past
When he attributes to me an unfounded eastern heritage of naturalism I ball my fists
Am I a child now and if so who is coming to bring me home
My mother sews your mother’s beautiful dresses by hand
I’m not mad about it
I just wanted you to know
Do you still feel our friendship opening like an exquisite pink blossom?
Are you uncomfortable and if so, why?
Here there are no stakes, a transfer of the thought to a whiter page
When I put my hand on the sentiment they tell me to ritualize or die
When I call my father about the anniversary he warns me about subverting the state which leads to a long and difficult conversation regarding our “politics”
He says could it be that you don’t have the “whole story”
Doves released for peace which is an abstraction if you are already dead
Is it that: I loved him enough to care towards his death
I love you enough to fear for you
In an advice column for teenaged girls I read: if you love him let him go
I feel ambiguously irritated by “him”
Today it is true crime television until late into the evening
I say to myself “what a crime”
Will you read this as the truth of my day or an incantatory practice designed to bring into being that which I wish I had done
I wish I’d thrown even one party for my achievements
To honor my mother: “be twice as good as them to be taken half as seriously”
She was pinning up her dark hair with a blue jewel
I was a child maybe, or, I was still bloating up with life inside of her
Here I wish to continue being sentimental and wonder about the limits of your suspension of disbelief
No, your suspension of suspicion at my remembrance
Could it be dripping of elegy
Does it violate our contract whereby I approach you as one would a priority
Or do I hear, a factory outside
Or do I hear, a family outside
Is it all a mountain of bullshit then when we flock to the tragedy as I like you am inclined
Like don’t you care that I live
Like does my manufactured emotional burden mean anything to you?
Would you lighten me then, if I asked
Wendy Xu is the author of You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013), and several chapbooks including Naturalism, forthcoming from Brooklyn Arts Press in 2015. Her work has appeared (or will appear) in The Best American Poetry, Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Guernica, jubilat, and elsewhere. In 2014 she was awarded a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation.
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But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.