From “Reaching Saturation”

Jenny Xie

All new images leave your thinking askew.

And wouldn’t you know—you wouldn’t
recognize these streets even if they translated you
phoneme by phoneme.

If feeling comes, some form of modern distance will clot it.

In your alogical ways, you make a foolish bargain:
you ask to be a native again—naïve
as you are, with steadfast eyes.

Some knavery in desire, some echo.

What more is there to say about the way
this homeland’s forehead degrades?

All stitching of narrative alienates.

Murky grows the sky in Brooklyn, upward from the night’s stiff stem.

                                      But not so in Hefei!

                              In Hefei, darkness
                                       emerges in rough spots

                                                            chafed from the back of street noise.

                                                            Dusk’s wide mouth
                                                            muffles the city statues

                                                            This parsimony of detail
                                                            so the still image will last

                                                           Incursion of the city’s lymph
                                                           pushing against your tissues

                                                           Crust cut off economically
                                                           from the harbor

                                                           Each life, rustling the folds of the year

                                                           Time is scented differently here

Some futures take root.

Bulldozers masticating between two city blocks

where the lining of a luxury high-rise thickens.

Aphasia runs through you.

Lapping at the sight of other people:

the mind feeds on synonyms, approximations.

Gray slosh of the Huangpu, against chrome and metal splinter.

Stitches in the phosphorescing air.

                             But the old city slides out of one alley. Not just from the archi-
                             tecture, but the way of speaking, one syllable under another. The
                             touching of speech, the air ionized, some keys left at the doorway
                             where a mourning dove offers seasoned murmurs. From pairs of
                             wet eyes, and from street names, which bear the mark of a past
                             ground under.

                           Slip out and the anesthesia rubs down the nostrils.

                           Flavors of knowing coming off bodies moving irrationally on the
                           city grid.

Jenny Xie is the author of the poetry collections The Rupture Tense and Eye Level, a recipient of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, and a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in New York City.
Originally published:
June 1, 2022


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