Jennifer Chang’s poems appear or are forthcoming in New England Review, Pleiades, Indiana Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. She is the winner of the 2004 Campbell Corner Poetry Prize and teaches in Rutgers University’s Creative Writing Program.
Before words, there was the language of the mark.
We moved a stick along the dirt and drew
a line to the end. Our wild flickers
ink-streaked a page, symbols like the stars’
orphaned radiance giving more light
than reason. He holds out a hand: what do you see?
Skin of absolution, there is nothing. I wrote S
before I learned the letter; and when he warned
Be silent as the “e” in house, I woke our father.
He had outgrown me with his name.
More wisp than dart, the sun rarely finds us
in the forest: he holds the fruit—I see
a breath vanishing—he knows the spell:
I live for a word, wordlessly.