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You Are Not Dead by Wendy Xu

You Are Not Dead by Wendy Xu

selections from You Are Not Dead by Wendy Xu


It’s Almost My Birthday Don’t Tell Anyone


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. 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.


Requirements for Seeing a Valley


You must be at least this tall. You must

not care that you are not. You need a friend who

is a plant scientist to point out all

the trees. This is a walking tour. Where

are your shoes? This is because airplanes will not

make stops in Ohio and I put that somewhere

in my letters. You must think that light watches

over you when everyone else

is talking. I put some sand in a jar and wait

for it to mean. Some horses wade into

the dangerous ocean because what else

is more important to see? Hold on, I promise

it’s happening. You and me are something

like a forest.



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 will become curious, that we

all run outside into 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 furniture. A lot can go wrong

if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving

their broken little hands.


You Are Not Dead by Wendy Xu is now available from Cleveland State University Poetry Center.


Richard Chiem

About The Author

Richard Chiem

Richard Chiem is the author of You Private Person. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Real Pants

Good hair, crooked gait

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