Adrienne Chung: Arrangements
Four new pieces from the poet's debut collection.
We learned the word for holiday. We went around the room each naming one. I said Chinese New Year. Someone said Halloween. Then someone said hayrides at the pumpkin patch and I imagined myself on the back of a truck at dusk, a little drunk and laughing, knocking into the side of the wagon as it swung around bales of hay. Gold filaments in the sky like rain. Who is this small child at my side? I look at her, intently because she looks like me, then at the man next to her whom I no longer know. Moonlight binds our hands in a straight line from heaven to Earth. Someone says Thanksgiving. Someone says Christmas. Christmas with your parents, Easter with your friends, says the teacher. I have friends I don't spend Easter with, parents who don't know my name. I'd never dreamed of a family before, of a lover and a child in the same scene.
First we installed a tall white cabinet and filled it with books, records, a cracked vase we found in Crete. You said you liked things the way I did. So did I. Quickly we added a table, chairs, lamps, then a desk until there was no more room for a sofa, but I supposed we weren't sofa people anyway. You agreed. I took your hand as we stood on the curb and watched the sky turn from blue to black. In that certain light I can see again all the base configurations we attempted as we tried to think our way out of this and then that, one lightbulb burning out after another until it was noon again. Neither of us knew what to do, so we sold the cabinet and bought a sofa. It's been months now and still the books lie open on the wooden floor, the pages sailing out like moths in the dark.
Because it was April, the tree bore fruit. I moved picture frames from room to room, then back until the sun came up. I closed my eyes and counted to five, then it was June and the street was littered with apples. We stack some squares and call this a house. Celery, milk, bread, and cheese. Summer fades into fall. An old woman stops me to ask the time. I like when old women are like Chinese almanacs. I don't tell my mother about any of this. I watch myself from a tree a little longer, rustle the leaves until you look.
I have no housecat, no TV, no lover I can touch. I sing a song in a house inside my head and imagine children sitting around me, watching in the dark. Some nights I'm scared I won't be able to sing. No song but the whir of a fan half-circling in the bedroom corner where in my dreams I’m in a valley looking up at the sky, alien angles of a desert sunset sparkling violet and bright green, the line between that world and this one invisible as an ending where pain would be not punishment but reprieve. I have not been visible now for a while. I slipped between the hours, barely touching the surface of my life. Time chased me, passing audibly in the winter. Scratch of an ice skate circling over the neon buzz of the Hy-Vee. I was trailed by a beer can in a lake, shadow of a plane over cornfields, true blue beauty of a midwestern sunset, landlocked and unburdened by freedom. Reeds swaying on the bank as though it were some other place.
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