Wendy Xu

Sometimes I think obsessively about work—what is it, who has it, modes of it, what does it look like, who needs it, being in-and-out of it, who gives it, who is disproportionately barred from it, how is a poem it and not it at all. This poem partly imagines the work of (and accident of) address, the fantasy of being heard and/or urgency of that attempt. It’s also a lie, a product of labor, a mistranslation of real (“real”) life.



Last night I slogged hours into the paperwork
and stayed there, heavier still into art dragging
my body too
The architecture was cleaving towards a highway

along super-natural lines, this week’s weather
defeating the next like a post-pop
tropical event even cuter
than last year’s devastating landfall
You deserve a one-act play of irreverence commemorating

wealthy neighbors who buy up all the art
eating sweetened granola half outside the window I’m wishing
your epistolary garden view like

when you say Auden I hear rare silver birds mistaking
the naturalist for the poet, isn’t shit just funny that way
Shutter-shock canary yellow in the wide

middling field, or is it nearer
the industrial lot beneath my window where men
shovel up the last

of summer’s good black dirt, I was still all alone in the park
staring up at the Egyptian obelisk’s worn
southern face while joggers touched me now
and then by accident
You ran with them for a moment beneath the bright canopy
I joined several witnesses calling softly back
you by your name


Wendy Xu is the author of You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013), profiled by Poets & Writers Magazine as one of the year’s best debuts, and several chapbooks. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry, POETRY, Guernica, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, The Volta, and widely elsewhere. In 2014, she was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Xu lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at CUNY.

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