Looking Beneath the Sentence’s Wing; 1989

Wendy Xu

What I saw there;
the grasses streams trees               rivers stones mountains
          the pale orange crystal pulled from the rock face
       the wayward clots of white and lavender clouds

luminescent jellyfish             the inlet criss-crossed by birds
the silver sheen of water         children marking it with fists

      and winds unbound by municipal borders sheltering me
                                                                              tender heartedly

needle-nose pines in a damp field stinging the air
                  covetous old knots on a string
                                   still tied to my grandfather’s big toe in Shandong
rough and green flowers falling
in a long tradition
over his body
                                    and my father straining his red-tipped ears
                                    towards an American middle ground
the dark sermon of those early years             crisis of distance
                                                and wild power of my mother—
                        wild new discipline that nonetheless held
                                                            back feverishly her tongue

Wendy Xu is the author of Phrasis. She teaches writing at The New School.
Originally published:
June 1, 2020


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