Biography of Jennifer Chang
Poet and scholar Jennifer Chang was born in New Jersey. She is a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where she is a PhD candidate.
Jennifer Chang Poems
Again A Solstice
It is not good to think of everything as a mistake. I asked for bacon in my sandwich, and then
This stream took a shorter course— a thread of water that makes oasis out of mud, in pooling,
Dark matter, are you sparkless for lack of knowing better? The room
Freedom In Ohio
I want a future making hammocks out of figs and accidents.
She's in the desert releasing the ashes of her father, the ashes of her child, or the ashes of the world. She is not what she observes. The rare spinystar. It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading a cloud through the sky. There's sun enough, there's afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash. I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless nimbus, faithless thought. In my life, I have lost two men. One by death, inevitable. One by error: a waste. He wept from a northern state, hunger too cold for human knowledge. Once I was a woman with nothing to say. Never did I say ash to ash. Never has the desert woken me up. I said who releases whom? Inevitably, all have known what the desert knows. No one will count the lupine when I'm gone. No one looks to the sun for meaning. For meat I've done so much less. Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage. I live in the city where I loved that man. The ash of him, the self's argument. Now and then, I think of his weeping, how my body betrays me: I am not done with releasing.
One winter I lived north, alone and effortless, dreaming myself into the past. Perhaps, I thought, words could replenish privacy. Outside, a red bicycle froze into form, made the world falser in its white austerity. So much happens after harvest: the moon performing novelty: slaughter, snow. One hour the same as the next, I held my hands or held the snow. I was like sculpture, forgetting or, perhaps, remembering everything. Red wings in the snow, red thoughts ablaze in the war I was having with myself again. Everything I hate about the world I hate about myself, even now writing as if this were a law of nature. Say there were deer fleet in the snow, walking out the cold, and more gingkoes bare in the beggar's grove. Say I was not the only one who saw or heard the trees, their diffidence greater than my noise. Perhaps the future is a tiny flame I'll nick from a candle. First, I'm burning. Then, numb. Why must every winter grow colder, and more sure?
It was inside, gathering heat in her blood, slowly killing her. No one said a word. And this grew her fury further, grieved her immeasurably. What did it look like. A knot, or a slag of granite. I imagined another brother, unborn for he was only a knot. How my granite brother would never leave her. I grew up in her abject sadness, which soon became our speaking. And then I left. Smaller, smaller, he was her favorite. Jays nag the first light. And now I am awake before dawn hoping today is a day when I won't have to say anything. And then I. To me, it was unintelligible. I could see through her skin, see my brother not growing inside her. Would he ever come outside. The raging jays, the squawking catastrophe. I wanted to know. What is the difference between a son and a daughter, I wanted to know. That is private. That was her answer.
Obedience, or the Lying Tale
I will do everything you tell me, Mother. I will charm three gold hairs from the demon's head. I will choke the mouse that gnaws an apple tree's roots and keep its skin for a glove. To the wolf, I will be pretty and kind and curtsy his crossing of my path. The forest, vocal even in its somber tread, rages. A slope ends in a pit of foxes drunk on rotten brambles of berries and the raccoons ransack a rabbit's unmasked hole. What do they find but a winter's heap of droppings? A stolen nest, the cracked shell of another creature's child. I imagine this is the rabbit way and I will not stray, Mother, into the forest's thick, where the trees meet the dark, though I have known misgivings of light as a hot hand that flickers against my neck. The path ends at a river I must cross. I will wait for the ferryman to motion me through. Into the waves he etches with his oar a new story: a silent girl runs away, a silent girl is never safe. I will take his oar in my hand. I will learn the boat's rocking and bring myself back and forth. To be good is the hurricane of caution. I will know indecision's rowing, the water I lap into my lap as he shakes his withered head. Behind me is the forest. Before me the field, a loose run of grass. I stay in the river, Mother, I study escape.
A Horse Named Never
At the stables, each stall was labeled with a name. Biscuit stood aloof — I faced, always, invariably, his clockwork tail. Crab knew the salt lick too well. Trapezoid mastered stillness: a midnight mare, she was sternest and tallest, her chest stretched against the edges of her stall. I was not afraid of Never, the chestnut gelding, so rode his iron haunches as far as Panther Gap. Never and I lived in Virginia then. We could neither flee nor be kept. Seldom did I reach the little mountain without him, the easy crests making valleys of indifferent grasses. What was that low sound I heard, alone with Never? A lone horse, a lodestar, a habit of fear. We think of a horse less as the history of one man and his sorrows than as the history of a whole evil time. Why I chose Never I'll never know. I fed him odd lettuce, abundant bitterness. Who wore the bit and harness, who was the ready steed. Never took the carrot, words by my own reckoning, an account of creeks and oystercatchers. Our hoof-house rested at the foot of the mountain, on which rested another house more brazen than statuary. Let it be known: I first mistook gelding for gilding. I am the fool that has faith in Never. Somewhere, a gold door burdened with apology refuses all mint from the yard.
The Skin's Broken Aria
I cross the street and my skin falls off. Who walks to an abandoned lake? Who
Something in the field is working away. Root-noise. Twig-noise. Plant
Conversation With Slugs And Sarah
Up late watching slug porn, you confess you had a boyfriend who could spin you like that, slug grace and slug ballet—we don't
The thorns had hands. The fire stood still. It will take a hundred years to piece together a hundred dreams.
Field Guide To The Night Sky
No one witnesses the history of light. The sky litters itself
Freedom In Ohio
I want a future
out of figs and accidents.
Or a future quieter
than snow. The leopards
stake out the backyard
and will flee at noon.
My terror is not secret,