Slept Poem by Jennifer Chang


The thorns had hands. The fire stood still.
It will take a hundred years
to piece together a hundred dreams.
A room of ashes was a room out-spun.
Mother says the heart is a wheel
and it will turn as I turn. Quickly.
Nightly. I married the owl.
I told her I could not walk,
the walls circled my steps. I told her,
my flesh became stone and I did not

bleed blood, but sound.
What sound? I could not describe it;
it was voiceless
and low. But it was not.
Mostly I was not alone in my solitude.
My breath became the ghost of me,
or the ghost of an old man
I'd long forgotten,
a midnight grandfather.

Pages of thoughts, they were not mine,
though my hand mastered
their language. I told her,
I cannot howl winsomely
like vixens.
Like thieves. I wandered the forest,
fingering every loose twig,
but I was sleeping. My hand,
good as air, was sleeping.
In my sleep, I wrote the field guide:
red-winged dream, tufted dream.
One was of salt,
one without hunger—a forest
of three-leaved trees.
I thought I knew everything.

My bed sat alone amongst the sassafras.
A fox, mid-pace and mid-bark, stopped
statue-like on a patch of moss.
I was watcher,
or maker. Yellow-bellied
dream, mourning dream.
Each thing I saw: a seed to myself.
Inside a girl stirred restless as rain.
I could not see her. I only grew.
Mother says when the basket's full,
it is time to come home.
Asleep, I lived
in silence, but in light.
What if waking were a room
black as the mind? Horn-billed dream,
Stellar's dream. And the body,
a darkness there is no memory of.

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang

New Jersey / United States
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