wendy xu

You put on some new pants. I put
on some sunlight. I put on a coyote. You
put on a bigger coyote. You put on all
of the coyotes! You put on the sand as it flies
beneath your incredible little paws. I put on
rain not reaching the desert. You put on how we
feel sad after this. You put on the sadness. You
put on methods for dealing with it. The sadness tries
to put you on but you say No! You wrestle
the sadness to the ground. You are big and need
large wings. You put on the large wings. You are still
a coyote. You put on the howling. You put on
things that howl back. There is nothing
you won’t put on. You put on the darkness.
You put on some stars and even what
is between them. You put on the moon. The moon
that shines! You put on how we want
to stay here! You put on how we forget where
we were before. You put on the earth how
it cracks. You put on its face when it sees us.
—  Wendy Xu, “I Think You Are Something Less Real Than You Are”
I go to sleep and wake up
different. You make a lengthy
drive across Iowa to find
the other end of Iowa, its fields
hung silent in iron sky. Claims
are always being made
about precision. If I were a bird
I would mean to be
the small kind. What is going on
in that room where
no one lives? It might fill
itself with delicate things,
some very nice iron bowls,
twelve miniature trees all
of them aflame. Listen,
Cody. How many times
did they tell you
you’d never make it? One day
is never longer than
the next untangling film
from a canister. Somebody
means to measure you
by needle and light.
I take a quiet kind
of panic to the river.
—  Wendy Xu, It’s Almost My Birthday Don’t Tell Anyone


This Year I Mean to Be an Elephant 
From You Are Not Dead

I don’t know if you understand me when 
I say hopefully there is a future and we 
are both allowed in it. I mean last year it 
was OK just to be flattened by our ideas. 
I sat in so many rooms and eventually felt 
interesting and not like a chair. Do you 
feel like a straight line? I worry about how 
I don’t. I worry that when I turn on 
the radio this morning it sounds just like
I expect. I am thinking about kicking what
I expect in the shin. Last year I forgot
whole people until having lunch again
with those people. Last year I forgot really
embarrassing secrets like how I am allergic
to regular soap. Cue all different kinds
of light and what music makes you feel
not dead. Last night I dreamt about sand. 
-Wendy Xu

“The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages."  -Frank O'Hara, "Personism: A Manifesto”
Things Other People are Good At

Loving someone
once is really
terrible because
then you know
it’s great
and the opposite
of losing
your keys.

__

I tried to be
serious about
getting older but
getting older
was so funny
because you get
stuff you know
you have to
return but
you act like
you don’t and
hang on
desperately until
you forget
what you had
in the first place
before all of this
stupid
trying.

(Wendy Xu, from You Are Not Dead)

This Year I Mean to Be an Elephant

by Wendy Xu

I don’t know if you understand me when  
I say hopefully there is a future and we  
are both allowed in it. I mean last year it  
was OK just to be flattened by our ideas.  
I sat in so many rooms and eventually felt  
interesting and not like a chair. Do you  
feel like a straight line? I worry about how  
I don’t. I worry that when I turn on  
the radio this morning it sounds just like
I expect. I am thinking about kicking what
I expect in the shin. Last year I forgot
whole people until having lunch again
with those people. Last year I forgot really
embarrassing secrets like how I am allergic
to regular soap. Cue all different kinds
of light and what music makes you feel
not dead. Last night I dreamt about sand.  

And Then It Was Less Bleak Because We Said So

Today there has been so much talk of things exploding
into other things, so much that we all become curious, that we
all run outside in to the hot streets
and hug. Romance is a grotto of eager stones
anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth
you can always see. With more sparkle and pop
is the only way to live. Your confetti tongue explodes
into acid jazz. Small typewriters
that other people keep in their eyes
click away at all our farewell parties. It is hard
to pack for the rest of your life. Someone is always
eating cold cucumber noodles. Someone will drop by later
to help dismantle some furniture. A lot can go wrong
if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving
their broken little hands.

Wendy Xu

Please Stand A While Longer In The Vast, Amazing Dark

Maybe don’t for another minute be afraid
of anything. Because swimming is really useful
against drowning which you didn’t know until
you tried it. And then your life was just massive
regret. And then you thought about three
purple blossoms in the hair
of a beautiful girl. But that’s not the part
that aches in a deep kind of place
inside you. Like if your dinner caught fire
in your stomach and then you ran
to the river which was dry. And your friend
was a jerk who doesn’t share resources
including a hose. Most things lose
interest when you are quiet
and small. Most things want to be
around other majestic things that make
noise or beauty. Wind plucks a flower
for sailing. You stand there in the presence
of whatever you are not.

— Wendy Xu

I go to sleep and wake up
different. You make a lengthy
drive across Iowa to find
the other end of Iowa, its fields
hung silent in iron sky. Claims
are always being made
about precision. If I were a bird
I would mean to be
the small kind. What is going on
in that room where
no one lives? It might fill
itself with delicate things,
some very nice iron bowls,
twelve miniature trees all
of them aflame. Listen,
Cody. How many times
did they tell you
you’d never make it? One day
is never longer than
the next untangling film
from a canister. Somebody
means to measure you
by needle and light.
I take a quiet kind
of panic to the river.
—  It’s Almost My Birthday Don’t Tell Anyone, Wendy Xu
The bed a moored ship.
Space is studded with revolving, monolith satellites.
I slide towards you on a fret-board of disaster.
Tempered stars.
Tempered fingers.
Disbanded chain-gang night.
I write you a song with my teeth.
Keel and rudder.
Thistle.
The bed among the bramble.
—  Wendy Xu, “Where the Hero’s Evening Litany,” The Hero Poems
Sometimes when you mean hello I carry
you in my left ear for days. You go with me
to the grocery store for arguments
about the most beautiful head of broccoli
and salad. O, gorgeous bird, I dare us to go
on not caring. I have put down color all
over the map this week. Nobody has reached
me with their letters. I feel like two owls caught
with secret binoculars. Which is to say I
feel more than what I am. Which what
am I? Which does it hurt when two
people go on speaking? Call me and say
you are alive again.
—  Wendy Xu & Nick Sturm, I Was Not Even Born When You Knew My Name