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Also by Jill Chan
These Hands Are Not Ours (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2009) Becoming Someone Who Isn't (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2007) The Smell of Oranges (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2003)
Copyright © 2011 Jill Chan All rights reserved. ISBN:1456591940 ISBN-13:978-1456591946
Acknowledgments 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 About The Author i 1 6 9 12 21 22 27 40 47
Some poems in this book have previously appeared in the following publications: Concelebratory Shoehorn Review (U.S.A.), From East to West (U.S.A.), Spin, Thunder Sandwich (U.S.A.) I am grateful to their editors.
Your left hand on the gears and your right on the steering wheel.
Only last night I was holding them tight in mine, a congruence I’ve come to know.
Now I watch fascinated by their independence.
When you stroked my hair, what were you thinking?
I never really understood giving, until now.
The self reposed on the brink of sinking.
To lose words like water and not caring
that they could move or kill the way headlight
heads toward light even if you don’t drive.
You know the sea is five minutes away.
But still, here, air slips between
the curve of a jug’s handle where your grip used to be.
The way movement doesn’t always cover space
and hesitation unwraps like a gift.
The mannered folding of shirts--face down, sleeves crossed, and cut
below the heart where everything that isn’t there becomes part of you anyway.
When the clothes you are wearing mean less to you than the act of putting them on--
the armstretch, the buttoning up,
the indigent body settling in.
Perfection for S
it is so quiet it hurts like the light you so carefully let into your eyes
Clouds needed to be named to mark our hold of the sky.
On the plane to Sydney, (cirrus outside), I feel it is like going to a place and never finding yourself in it because you’re always up here accepting that you’ll never start naming lesser things.
In the car today, we talked about immortality, that word that utterance negates, for voice is fluid, temporal though dreaming.
We have been where we would blush at being remembered-not placed, not returned but coming round this corner.
To Be Honest
Important things such as eye colour, and whether to write or speak regardless of ability
I stay for now divergent
I’ve gone back to trusting only that which I can handle-giving away leaf veins as if I owned them
There is the question of branches
I rehearse breaking them at every opportunity
both hands sturdy, eyes involuntarily closing at the point when the branch snaps
So it is in your brain You make good use of all the circuitry the way you always feel head forward into cradle
I said I’ve been thinking of you and you went really quiet as if suddenly you were thinking too
The vessels carry something into somewhere both ways
I seem to clearly say once sure the feeling doesn’t mean so much
Rain rising into clouds Thunder grumbling after lightning
You let me read your favourite story. I read it aloud to you.
You read me as if I don’t know meanings. We’ve read each other so well there refuse to be meanings.
As I go on, my voice falls.
No longer steep, I become adept at never forcing you to listen to yourself listening to my voice.
“Projection. Flat, rectangular.”
Our inner room is too small,
switching senses too soon.
I come to your part now mine.
Coming Home After Dark
Is it any wonder that sometimes your most real, your most unpretentious, your least barrier to honesty that you put into words, the more people ignore.
It is as if they sense your imbalance, your inordinate passion they couldn’t as yet unfeel for themselves.
They fear they don’t want you crossing the street at night. Wait till the night crosses into you indistinguishable. Lamp post, streetlight--
all this inconvenient seeing.
You said people you’ve known to come over during Christmas came over to our house.
Our house? I seem to claim too much of what isn’t mine.
The house. I think of the narrow stair, the large rooms, all that space I couldn’t occupy.
What do they say about leaving your heart where you were, uninvited but made welcome.
Twelve Words Spoken by a Poem
If only I could condense
and love like water loves a vessel
Freedom like darkness is eloquent.
Both stagger when made to roam: one bound to earth by the string the other unrolled.
There is such a thing as building one's own wall to protect the outsiders from themselves.
You must not pity the whole nation: Little green people on their rafts managing to say the insideout thing. The elliptical vision is clear, unblemished by bent rays, and rhythm.
The blackness you see is not dark. It breaks out of your eyes and waves its shining cloth.
So many things you love are black.
So little you understand.
Your heart is pumping inside you, in darkness.
Wind, Open Stark, a star, dark? wind that is held, spoken to, greatly
this empty, gaining nothing, if itself, is to itself
how you flew into the far star, spark, speak
The river in our own waving, knowing full well the way
slack cuts more slack, the way rope snakes into itself, the last in the affair of remembering.
In this slowness, breath becomes living, believing in the rise and fall of the body.
The stones are calling to awaken! Pick one
and leave the impossible ones behind.
If the engine of memory runs on our ability to steer towards endlessness, towards the daily silences of permission, then you and I with each held-out hand will reach the crossing before dark.
Repeating To Myself
Remember the few bare trees still here.
I walk to know the landscape,
the many ways you turn to leave.
You let this gift fall out of your hand, as it did from its giver. You take this gift as if from anyone you know, tear it out of the wrapping of all other gifts everyone else gave.
I mourn the lost forms traveling through a tunnel caught in some past or future journey.
Perhaps it’s more simple than that, more freeing:
They’ve gone like sleep. You remember none of it, only that it’s never failed you.
In Which She Walks Away
I cannot know as much as you say you know me.
It is a renouncement to be loved this long, this sacredly without my knowing.
I hope to want to follow where you go but already you follow me, else we go round in circles, this never-ending meeting in parts.
Forgive me those years
you’ve known me without myself, wherefore have they gone except always arriving in your steadfastness, my failure.
We shall be opposites, the first ships to sail with the ocean as their destination.
When I was small, my father invented a game to play with me.
We were moving; all the furniture still to be placed inside the house.
The spacious rooms, smell of wood; floors looking to be walked upon.
The carpets colourful, like modernist abstract art.
We would laugh and shriek, running and jumping on the shapes.
White, green— for resting a while. Red, blue—run for your life.
Soon, we would spill to the other rooms, changing the rules as we went along.
We wanted to fill them with newly-drawn things, create ways of gazing into the old.
Take me back to what need not be said
to the silence before the darkest beginning
You are waiting for the sun,
the ways it rises again and again.
These days, time is the matter on your mind.
You forget too much. I hope you’d never need
to be bravest as memory falls away.
You leave a part of the house empty,
opening every door.
You are saving these small hours reading by a light.
There’s an hour hiding in the corners of this room.
You push it away with every word.
Another hour wraps around your shoulders.
The silent lines
it leaves behind.
The last is waiting beside the desk in all the ways you will be awake.
In order to be in the night,
one has to close their eyes, raise the best sight,
see through to the present in the dark.
They slip out of the darkness
into a deep not quite here
not quite further than your nearest word
how many versions of you do I see
not counting the sleeping one
whom all the dreamers think they know
holding your beauty to their bed
It is in the way you stray too far, without a need to fill any hunger (least of all your own), or to take anything you want, any opportunity to lie without speaking, and break up language like water until only thirst remains.
Now it is starting to be difficult.
Look at the rest of me departing.
The places to illumine.
Let us consider where they go.
its feet known.
Perhaps there is only love.
Nothing I have to bring.
You leave once again.
Just to keep things simple.
What beauty, this waking
without a face.
These words I won’t say,
I give them away.
No need for making sense.
Or wanting to arrive.
Lights in the room seem to be brighter, my hands quite restless to hold something that isn’t mine, just to feel my lack, days that leave openly though given to being here like nights that remember only to begin.
You thought that today was yesterday. What does it matter? It is only time. You don’t remember how old you were when you were young. Where’s the face that knew you, that now looks for you in the fading?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jill Chan is a poet based in Auckland, New Zealand. Her poems have been published in MiPOesias, foam:e, fieralingue Poets’ Corner, Tears in the Fence, Blue Fifth Review, Asia and Pacific Writers Network, Otoliths, Broadsheet, JAAM, Poetry New Zealand, Brief, Takahe, Trout, Deep South, Southern Ocean Review, Blackmail Press, and other magazines. She is the author of three collections of poetry: These Hands Are Not Ours (2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn't (2007); and The Smell of Oranges (2003), all published by Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop. She is one of the poets featured in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive.
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