Adrienne Chung: Arrangements

Four new pieces from the poet's debut collection.
Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting, 1974.© 2023 Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
La Sagra
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.

The Stenographer
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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