Archive, Poems

Two Poems

Episteme 17

I can’t say which
cloud cut open
the hill. Or why,
walking, I can’t
reach the sky. I
have a love and
a love. Virginia is
not east.
               The hill
gives no slack, no
shade, so I rise
to light. I am
quiet. So you
squander words
to make what’s
false true.
                 I had
a love. A blue
kite untwisting
the sky. It was not
a bird, though
we wanted
it to be.

Episteme 30

I did not know
your joy. I
found a recess

in my climb,
the oak lost

a tread for
its roots and fell. Falling,
too, I grew

out of dying
and that
desire we once

caught on another
mountain. If
we could pause, I

would write
of the blur I woke
to today, gold

light, a love
the gut of
a shadow can’t

fathom. I am
only yours
if the world

were yours
to lose. This is a
game: name the leaf

that won’t color,
the char
of sleep, what’s burnt

isn’t gone. I am here.
I am here. There
is no you.

Jennifer Chang is the author of The History of Anonymity and Some Say the Lark, which was long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award and won the 2018 William Carlos Williams Award. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewThe Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Poetry, and A Public Space, and her essays have appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, New England Review, and New Literary History. An associate professor of English at George Washington University, she co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman and served as visiting poet at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program in Spring 2019. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her family. 

These poems first appeared in Volume VI, Issue 2, Fall & Winter 2011-2012 of Poetry Northwest.