Back to Issue Twenty-Three.

What I Tell Myself Before I Sleep





Lessons on Lessening



I wake to the sound of my neighbors upstairs as if they are bowling.

And maybe they are, all pins and love fallen over.
I lie against my floor, if only to feel that kind of affection.

What I’ve learned, time and again:
Get up. You cannot have what they have.

And the eyes of a dead rat can’t say anything.

In Jersey, the sink breaks and my mother keeps a bucket
underneath to save water for laundry.

A trick of water is no joke. I’ve learned that.
Neither is my father, wielding a knife in starlight.

I was taught that everything and everyone is self-made.

That you can make a window out of anything if you want.
This is why I froze insects. To see if they will come back to life.

How I began to see each day: the sluice of wings.
Get up. The ants pouring out of the sink, onto my arms in dish-heavy water.

My arms: branches. A swarm I didn’t ask for.

No one told me I’d have to learn to be polite.
To let myself be consumed for what I cannot control.

I must return to my younger self. To wearing my life
like heavy wool, weaved in my own weight.

To pretend not to know when the debtors come to collect.


The recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Kundiman, the U.S. Fulbright Program, Bread Loaf, and others, Jane Wong has published poems in places such as Best American Poetry 2015, American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2012, Pleiades, Third Coast, and others. Her first book, Overpour, is out from Action Books (2016). Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University.

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