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No Need for the Moon to Shine in It

 

This life in fits and starts: a spider walks across

the circumference of my room with just one leg.

How easy we can adapt if given one good thing:

one good leg, one good kettle, one good patch

of grass. In summer, I split the stems of a bouquet

to resemble legs kicking in a lake, muddy all May.

In winter, we simply can’t have what we want.

I watch a fish freeze mid-flight in a waterfall. Its eye:

a glassy rock I want to skip into a pot

of soup to revive. February is fitting: my grandmother

yawns or shouts into her hands: salt-white snow.

A cloak of bees covet a fluorescent bulb, sunning

their wings. I stretch my legs across a rooftop. I am a line

of laundry drying, drawn in and folded in

haste. My mother cuts small Xs into tomato skins.

The tomatoes splinter in boiling water. My roiling heart:

pulped. If I told you I felt safe all the time, I would

be lying. If I told you I lied, I would also be lying.

A blush sweeps across my face like the sun in a smoke –

filled sky. False: trees are being set on fire. False:

I used a broom to stir the bees up. True: the bees rained

down, singing dirges in every mouth in every crown

in every sugar-rotten cavity.

Under a full moaning moon, I changed into a better

self: over-empathetic. I saved every deer

tangled in every fence. I took hooves to the face.

I won awards and gave awards away to terrible people so

they can feel something. I adapted well

to dry climates. My leg hairs sprouted like cacti.

How honorable, my eyes impervious to tears, fire,

tectonic shifts of the self. Look: I high-fived everyone

like a good citizen. I pinned every flag to every bone.

I burned garbage to light the way for a family

of raccoons, crossing starless street after starless street.

Tell me: what kind of habits should I adopt?

My braid dips into the juices of a steak.

At 72, my grandmother’s hair is so tangled we have to

shave her head. She is a little boy in a coat, three shades

too red. My grandmother says: there are so many ways

to be invisible. Salt-white snow.

My heart softens: noodles in a pot.

A helicopter flying low can’t mean good news, no.

A weak cosmic ray transmits a message: give me all

your soft tissue, all your resilience. Go on: denude thyself.

Some cells split despite death. When they opened

up the farmer, they found a grass clot in his lungs.

I come from a farming family. Which is to say,

I have killed plenty of things: spiders, ants, crabs –

leg by leg. Murder is to mitosis is to mercy.

We are mostly legs too: part tendon, part pardon, kicking

or curling. My hair curls after falling into the ocean,

transverse wave of the face. June never wavers:

I lick my arm for a pinch of salt. I pitch a fit and alternate

liking you. Kiss me like this: all likelihood gambled:

how a dog barks to match the bark of another.

Sorry does not mean anything. Sore, though,

feels everything: my mother’s arm feeding envelopes

into a machine, little workhorse of the heart and hoof.

So, lean against me. I want to say: take my

right hand, my right wrist – it braces against

sorrow. I could row us away. My good arm, my good

daughter. How easy we can adapt if given

something. Yesterday, I spent hours shucking corn,

the hairs of husks across my legs, gathering.

If you shucked loneliness,what will you find?

All the animals that have committed to dirt have it all

figured out. A colony of ants is based on attachment:

everyone a bridge, everyone a lean-to.

When I wake, I flail and startle starlings. They topple

over, dropping insects out of their mouths. This life:

shock, loss, shock. Would you turn away? No need

for the moon to shine here. No need for stop signs,

cold soups, laboratory goggles. Let your prized insects drop

from your mouth. Let the virus hover over you,

knitting sickness like a thick winter scarf my mother wraps

around the both of us. Reroute upon command.

Wash a plate like a fly washes its face. Eat an oyster without

opening it. Clean your good, bloody teeth. Begin,

my mother, the conductor, says: begin, begin again.

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Jane Wong 's poems can be found in places such as Best American Poetry 2015, Best New Poets 2012, Pleiades, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Third Coast, The Volta, Tupelo Quarterly, and others. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the U.S. Fulbright Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, Squaw Valley, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She holds a MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches at the University of Washington and the Hugo House. She is the author of the poetry collection Overpour (Action Books, 2016).

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