Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“This Year I Mean to Be an Elephant”

I have several favorites from Wendy Xu’s collection You Are Not Dead, one of them being “This Year I Mean to Be an Elephant.”  I am taken by the direct talk.  “I don’t know if you understand me when / I say hopefully there is a future and we / are both allowed in it.”  We’re chatting, damn seriously, over what could be a kitchen bar, about what’s been and what’s to be.  Or over the telephone, long distance.

                 …I mean last year it 

      was OK just to be flattened by our ideas. 
      I sat in so many rooms and eventually felt
      interesting and not like a chair.

She worries, expects, thinks, forgets, one by one what’s rushing to mind now.  But these commonplace mental activities take on precise emotional resonance when we find out what she’s worrying about, expecting, etcetera.  “I worry that when I turn on / the radio this morning it sounds just like / I expect.”

Throughout I get simultaneously the sense of deadpan, of being bowled over, and of taking off to someplace unexpected.  “Last year I forgot really / embarrassing secrets like how I am allergic / to regular soap.”  After a catalogue of telling me where she’s at, she sets the mood for “this year”, the year she is “to be an elephant”:

              …Cue all the different kinds
      of light and what music makes you feel
      not dead. Last night I dreamt about sand.


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