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Wendy Xu: Pick of the Week [ed. Terence Winch]

Xu author photo web















I Must Change My Form


It’s true, nothing is coming out like it used to anymore

Usually I am rather neat and tidy in my work

It is spring, that time of year when all rain is expired cherry blossoms, the ground pink like above us, more pink

Walking through the park with my love I think about Chang-e, goddess of the moon, her exquisitely timed appearances at my moments of deepest need

I’m so tired of the compromises of women in my cultural folklore, as if: sacrifice is defensible as a feminist vision?

For example:

Your husband is greedy and demands ever greater production of silk from you, plucked from your own tender skin, spun overnight to meet his needs

Your husband is hoarding the immortality pills and so now you must live on the moon

Your husband loves you even in your true form, an enormous white snake, but he dies because you’re pregnant

Your husband is a dick, generally, and the other details are fluid

Thank god you are beautiful and a wonder to be regarded from earth

GuanYin remains the champion of mercy except in her punitive dealings with men

As a child I admired her for being above all helpful in my limited aspirations, perhaps I only aspired to that much, to function with use

Do you have context for this legend? Shall I include it here for you?

If I do, who is my perceived audience?

Some of you are my brothers and sisters and I allow you your infinite transgressions

My father writes me:

I just read your new poem NOTES FOR AN OPENING, it makes me think a lot, feel a lot, a lot about my life and our life. It will make me think and feel much more and more about myself and my children and the relatedness of our life in the true meaning of living or simply being alive. I love you Wendy, my daughter. Keep writing it. Let the thoughts flow whenever they come in your poetic form or other forms. Please ask if you need anything from me. I have been thinking a lot lately about our life journey. Nothing is better than writing it out and fully express it although it is really hard to re-experience many things.

Note: punctuation and grammar have been corrected

As per: your convenience


Do as much as you can as best as you can

I think about the wonderful hyphen, the place where I am allowed to live and am never followed

Blank Hyphen American

The hurt is the bridge, the bind, the unnatural (Hyper Hyphen Natural) adjoining my frankenparts

A grammar joke is: “Chinese-American” privileges the “Chinese” over the “American”

Get it?

I wish my life were so good that I was frequently bored

“A fatal sickness”

Which is despair but despair does not equal death, so what is unto death?

I am so glad I did not have to love him unto death, though I love him there

All good things must end and give rise to still undetermined things

If I despair of it I am sick with it, an already dead attitude, a levity I no longer feel

I am sick with love for my immigrant parents, the long mirror they hold out towards me

The poem will have no annotation, no disclosure, no burden, no qualifying exam, no end

It will be all language prerequisite

You might focus then on my sickness and use it to betray me

You might have no time no money no inner resources with which to begin


Wendy Xu’s most recent books of poetry are The Past (2021) and Phrasis (2017), named one of the 10 Best Poetry Books of 2017 by The New York Times Book Review. Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Granta, Poetry, New York Review of Books, Tin House, and widely elsewhere. She is assistant professor of writing at The New School, where she teaches poetry.



   Panel with the Moon Goddess and Attendants. 12th–13th century China.  Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ornate style of clothing worn by these four women suggests they are immortals. The osmanthus leaf held by the largest figure, at the right, identifies her as the Moon Goddess Chang’e, who inhabits her celestial palace along with a rabbit that prepares the elixir of long life.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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