Back to Issue Forty-Two

1968 Stereoscope


The daylight hours were for invented
inventories, the airplane posture of the body.
Collapse or cry out: that’s guilt surely
snagging in the skin. To not think
what one thinks means one can
continue. Times she believes torment
is only an irregular rhythm hurrying her
toward whatever arrives in the next life.

When evening chews
through the sludge of daylight
that’s permission to walk to the river.
The nephew keeps watch, still as a seed husk.
Something stirs and untenses in the banks.
It’s her pulling threads of salt water
out of her own two eyes.

In the dark, your hands are hot
with your face: degrees of shame rising
now that there’s no trotting out for struggle.
To make one’s face move during the day
risks an aperture: squirming interior.
Only in the blue convulsions
of evening is your grief secure.

Have you ever seen a river turtle struggle
by another of its kind?
Seen a fish break its mind over a tear
in the fabric of its past?
To act in the present tense, thoughts few.
One wild creature has more freedom
than a hundred thousand of you

Alternate Endings

an excerpt



You are milky and restless: a nocturne caught. Hush. Tucked inside the padding of mouth, against which coiled language gets absorbed. Your questions start to thin, webbing at the edges. Soon after, the present tense short circuits. Because my own mouth is open when I look toward your direction, your face is smeared on all my vowels. When I cry out, pieces of you are carried off in quick, sharp drifts.


Closing your eyes, you point a camera at us. After which we blur and multiply, blur and remain fixed. Refugees in the nation of the seen. If you can’t see us, we can’t see you.


A person lost becomes a hook lowered into the depths of an echo. Are you there? we say. Are you there? Are you there? Are you there?


In the beginning there were knots. A deeper emptying, some passage grammar can’t fit through.


I write line and line and line. Stitch you into a pronoun.


Tell me, what is a poem to you?


Anything that continues.


Anything can contain you:





Your coarse black hair plaited tight down two sides


The visual input shores up a density


What I took you for: pressed between sheets of plastic prosodyof black and white


A firing of electrical pulses across


No bigger than two thumbsone stacked atop the other


Your silence strainsagainst what


All year I wear you on my faceto move backward


Farther from death than I amfathomless





The afterlife collects sentences of varying lengths.


Endings suppurating, beginnings crusting over.


Time, you see now, is an inheritance that marks everyone as a spendthrift—how painful.


Small mouth: the unknowable answers neither slow nor quick.


To mix sleep with some language slurry.


To see the head polishing the pillow with so many questions.


Thoughts casting a dye.


As you age, childhood’s gradient intensifies.




When spring comes around, you carry the weight of spring.

When summer comes around, you carry the weight of summer.

When fall comes around, you carry the weight of fall.



When winter comes around, pages fall open.



And you, all future tense, leak through.


Jenny Xie is the author of Eye Level and The Rupture Tense. She lives in New York City.

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