I find myself still trying to save those minor things,
black text on white pages or other symbols I felt
somehow understood me. I was out at Grand Canyon
late last year, and started feeling lonely
surrounded by all the pink and dying land,
soft shrubbery, those couple lost stars or headlights,
the wire fencing busy dividing nothing in half,
and I breathed in a silence that made my heart race.
I know we know somehow that we’re spreading slowly
in the universe with its blank stares and mosquitos,
trapped in this silence we did not make alone.
Standing there, my first thought was to call, but I could not
for a familiar list of reasons why, mostly because a troupe
of blackbirds wasn’t willing to un-scatter. So then I was only
staring at a screen, which is a square of light so small
it fits into your hand, if you can believe it. On the other side,
there had better be something, for all we’ve put into it,
all the pure and nameless stuff down there, accumulated eons,
blue tinged caves and junipers, sediment, gypsum, rainwater.
At a distance, we can make the past so impossibly small,
and in the memory, the raft with the little person on it
goes on its own into the brackish whitewater, billowing
like a cartoonish scribble.
I keep running through canyons, past houses,
the brain still busy looking for it.
Midweek mornings, I want the meaning
to appear in front of me like a flashcard.
I’m not sure why I left my job,
but I say over drinks at Black Flamingo
that something solid turned into a gas,
color flapped down onto the table,
and I wanted to be happier. I jog
unsteady, unsure across the overpass and wild turkeys
drift across the page like sheet music.
In the yellow pages,
it says to call and call soon, that
there’s a reason for the order
we gave twenty-six letters. Today,
it looks like all the summer wildflowers
but it’s hard to tell when things begin to end.
A man I loved back then told me
that we’re just dust particles
here to remember the beginning,
diagrams in the
textbook of physics.
When my mother calls,
I tell her I’ve taken up jogging,
that I’m making progress.
And I feel this body changing,
the leaves reddening.
On the phone, we agree to keep working at it,
that the equipment’s complicated,
and we connect
somewhere on the inside
where it’s harder to see the wires.
Meanwhile, the temperature drops
and the marathon runners
don their winter tracksuits,
neon pinks and greens,
swerving past me on the west loop,
holding down the ever-changing pace, the minute, the second,
like a hot air balloon. Vapor forms from breath,
and look how I’ve held on
to the time, the time, though I can’t see it,
the numbers, the propane,
the looming end to another year, sharp tacks
rising with the air in my chest.
The blossoms gathered like churchgoers.
My father says we’ll see our ghosts
below the steeple at Santa Ana.
We’ll pay our respects to the birds in the distance, that blackened outburst
from the old country. Somewhere in the night there, which is light here,
your grandmother passed away. Don’t forget
the mountains are chasing you,
though they seem far away.
Now, I don’t intend to cry,
but you should cry if you want to
here beneath the parting lemon trees, the summer everywhere.
The steps at Holy Trinity are dizzy with paper dresses,
peels of sunshine like orange skins across the floor.
I tried to cry but couldn’t. When I look back,
I never found the right time. When I went downstairs,
life leaked out of our bodies. So the stars are also old light,
so the trees are also carbon copies, matchsticks
walking upright into the living memory
of the departed.
Where the lava entered me,
divine chaos encircled my hair in a crown.
This planet used to be covered in trees,
how magnificently they stood in their final days.
Students at the universities, in the libraries,
try to piece together what it was like before,
among the headless desire.
I’m alive now. Now, without the forests,
all of our lives will be buried in a new country,
and all of our loves will perish in the long distance.
CYNTHIA X. HUA is a poet and artist. She was a National Finalist for the Norman Mailer Awards in Poetry and a Fellow with Brooklyn Poets. She has been published in Boulevard, Glass Poetry, and The Harpoon Review.