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Object Permanence: Two Poems by Constance Chan

I always thought I’d find you / throned in the moon-drenched water my wonder / woman your palms curled upward like lotus skins

By Constance Chan


Fish Tank at the Golden Cities Restaurant


The waiters in the restaurant say one of his eyes is blind,
and the other half-white: two bowls of clear water
possessed by milk. I peer into the knee-high

tank bolted to the floor, watching his silver S-shape
slither through green smoke.
He nudges the broken bridge in the corner.

Eight fish mean long life, and the spirit
that lives in his running water is different
from the one in still. His one eye watches

for evil, for the low breath of wind.
They say the one before him turned black
and dropped to the cloud of algae

at the bottom like a weight. He absorbed all the bad
luck a handful of life could hold. I used
to have dinner with my last boyfriend in front of that fish—

he was the kind of man I’d call for weed
or a walk through Echo Park.
We ate dinner with his mother at the restaurant

the night he got kicked out of college, the clink
of knives beneath her silence. Disappointment
in his family was palm by palm on broken glass.

He counted out Paxil
in a bathroom stall as we put leftovers in boxes,
pale tilapia layers to be shut in the dark.

After dinner, he went home and roped himself
to a solid walnut chair and used his free heel
to tip over the edge of his infinity pool. Sometimes,

I think of how I found him, his black figure
anchored to concrete under wrinkled lamplight. I crouched

at the edge watching his still body under running water.
I waited all night for him to sway.



Object Permanence


In the dream you are standing drowned in light
& syllables form you from unformed clay
language by language placed in your throat
I am memorizing every one of your parts
lady of unplucked eyebrows & ungrecianed nose & wild majesty
here I am thinking of blanching your hair blonde when I was twelve
combed out out clairol 7th stage chiaroscuro
I’ve heard michelangelo went nearly blind
from years of toxic solvents
wings of angels dripping into his eyes
& I too had such a vision
sorority sisters & scandinavian kings melting gold braids before funeral pyres
the day I tried to speak more white just slivered
salted butter a tablespoon of cold pressed kale
& his daddy’s jim morrison records
& I forgot the fluorescent ring on my dark hair every time
I’ve seen my own body outside on the hard wintered lawn
you crawling towards the porch light
hands slipping erased by sleet
fighting for permanence
I piece together Cantonese like retracing a map from a dream
drugstore concealers littering drawers seven shades because I couldn’t remember
I wasn’t really looking & when I wasn’t looking I wasn’t there
& I lose & I lose but isn’t this how
I always thought I’d find you
throned in the moon-drenched water my wonder
woman your palms curled upward like lotus skins
my one possession my imago dei my platelet protection
godlike in your serenity
& somewhere Nietzsche stirs among charred poppies
dreaming of my noble race my avalanche my hair lashing out in the western
call it a last chance at getting it right call it laughter in a burning room
& across the autumn smoked yard you’re calling me
you’ve always been there in my veins in my melanin
waiting for me
& this time I don’t want to forget
I place you on the ledge you like the best near the sun
& name you & speak you
say it with me now