National Poetry Month Day 10: “The Strangers” by Jennifer Chang
Welcome to The Rumpus’s National Poetry Month project. We’ll be running a new poem from a different poet each day for the month of April.
Mostly, I hope.
In the industry of specifics, I list my Sally-trees, my letters to Paul.
Everyone is speaking at the same time; the rain is speaking at the same time.
Strangers stand in the avenues, in the meadowlands, in the waiting rooms of mightier offices.
They are looking at their hands, thinking they are looking at the past.
“This is the ordinary march to justice,” Mary Wollstonecraft writes.
Reader, they are looking at the future.
I have the hands of an American poet.
Sally wields her radiant leaves, while Paul is sincerely, always, yours sincerely.
“What if?” I ask the strangers.
Mostly, I hope for snow in winter and the fortitude to bear it.
I ask the strangers, “If love were privation, and therefore infinitely imaginable, would I nurse such rootless sentiments?”
Would I hope myself into yet another quiet vessel, striving against bad weather?
This vessel, an argument against vindication.
I am not sure why the strangers have made a home of everywhere, why the veins of their palms whorl in the wrong direction, but I reach out to them.
“Our very soul expands, and we forget our littleness,” Mary Wollstonecraft writes.
West, west, all the strangers are heading west into the prairies and then the mountains and then the coastal cities, like a flock of water-hungry lemmings, like a flock without fear.
And if there is no future snow, then will there be neither catastrophe nor love?
Mostly, I hope to write back Paul.
When the strangers reach ocean they see they have not in fact reached home, their hands, white flags hailing the furious shore.
Or: the wave-stressed shore, the shore queening its pale strand over the world’s erosion.
Dear Paul, When you died, I knew that love held a terminus too dear, and it is strange to love what won’t be, and to be every dead thing is stranger.
Dear Paul, I miss chiming in the dark.
Mostly, I hope to fill the blank pages of your hands with snow and doubt.
“But to return to the straight road of observation,” Mary Wollstonecraft writes.
If love is not privation, then is it too much, is it too much, it is much too much.
And now I explain to Sally that the remnant prairie is also not love, however long it frets.
It is not yet winter.
I have been awake in your silence.
The strangers grow tired of poetry and will not sit in the light.