The Poetry Project


Bo Hwang

I can recount yesterday. Awoke late to a glum sky. The clouds hadn’t kept their distance. They hadn’t stayed lofty. They were low and near, and the room took after how gray it was. Every corner was fogged. All the edges without distinction.

I splashed my face. I wiped the bathroom mirror. I waited for the sink water to drain. It didn’t. I left the house in a pair of loud blue pants (cloudless).

I can recount the street. Largely empty. Rolls of fabric stood slanted against the stores. Secondhand smoke with hints of jasmine.

Thinking of Xing, I didn’t buy anything. Not the gold chain in the window splay. Not the yellow lilies. I came across an aluminum canister with an etching of two bodies at a waterfall. Who can resist a good container? Outlined in silver, the naked couple held hands. A small vine climbed each leg. I thumbed over the pair of sloping shoulders, thick backs, and flat cheeks.

What do you need a canister for? the Xing in me said. I set the canister down. It started to sprinkle.

Xing lived on the coast.

I lived in the city.

The coast had a future. It was accompanied by a way of life. Shined trucks without tops. Sun toasted men and their well-fed dogs lounging in the back seat.

The city had a future too, but I didn’t know it.

I can recount yesterday. Xing retains the rest. Her mind’s a diorama of personal details, a total order of events.

Summer of ’07? No, it was Brigitte who picked us up from the airport, Xing says. You mean after Hellen’s wedding. The ceremony was in May. Well, it will be two years and five months since we last saw Aunt Jeanine. No, she lives alone.

Yesterday, Xing’s memory served me an old magazine, folded and wedged in the back of a dresser. I knew the cover well, even if I didn’t remember holding it. A woman’s face turned over her bare shoulder and back. She had very black hair: wet and sleeked down, curling at the shoulder. She had a finger to her chin. The headline read, She did not hear. She did not sing. But she loves!

You were the one who found it, Xing says. I held the dresser still and you snaked that meatless arm of yours behind the bottom drawer. Have you been eating well?

Even without a memory, I see the magazine. Each spread a mix of curves and angles. Many-a-woman cupping her pale breasts, tangled in white sheets. Some are soft, in silk pajamas. Others hard and glazed, the light bouncing right off.

On the street, I waited under an awning, hoping the rain picked up. Light rain barely cleared the air. Light rain made more dirt. I couldn’t even hear it. Not enough metal roofing.

A couple on the far side of the street piled into their car. Clear as day, I heard one say, Well I wanted the blue one. Door slam.

The city had what others had. A silhouette at dusk. Spires. Boardwalks. Birds that dove to and from poles to wire. Only, it had so much of what others had. So many cities left-behind, broken apart and sprinkled around (lightly).

How many years already? What had passed?

In the window behind me, I saw a thick back and sloping shoulders. I was lumpy around the hips and paler by the day. My body moved slowly. Everything at a curve not an angle.

Work from Memory Palaces: Visions, Echoes, Forms with Lucy Ives