6.11 / September 2011

Three Poems

Where the Hero Contemplates Forgiveness

listen to this poem

Before you there was your father who carried a hammer
& fixed things. Each night like a dark broom swept him

into bed & he dreamed of you, a slowly focusing photograph
of messy hair settled atop a red tricycle,

two buck teeth in dinosaur pajamas you sailed
across the living room floor like Magellan having spotted

the isle of beautiful women.
Later you too would circumnavigate

the thorny bramble of loss’ island on foot, sometimes
with a cat named Tybalt & your friends who don’t eat meat

except when they’re eating meat. This is the trick: make a rule
& break it. Run towards love & don’t come back,

like the blind circus starlet leaps from a platform & loses
her sequined gown,

you are an equally blind train chugging on. This is to say something
about on track & how you were put together right

in Michigan where the steam engines rollick
into morning, a flock of blackbirds dip & tumble while somewhere

your father sits up in bed. You ink a burning orange sky onto an arm.
Hitch the worn desert pony of your life to a post.

Where the Hero is Busy Thinking About You

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The landscape of a Pennsylvania farmhouse, the thicketed white
birch of the forest. A turtle sunning itself on a rock, but the rock is really
another turtle. Intricacies of speaking about passion. Intricacies of speaking
about God. An ear pressed up against the radio
on a Sunday night in 1963. Summer in NY with the pretty girls.
A town suffering from a noxious gas leak, and the wind
nobody saw coming. An antique store full of new things. Horses.
The acre after acre of beautiful, unexpected horses.
What Christ might have thought, had he been asked
to think about you. An Egyptian rickshaw careening over a cliff
in an action movie. The future. The dutiful exchange of sun and moon.
Any kind of bird preening its feathers. The electric fence surrounding the house
meant to keep out coyotes, but keeping you in. The horses
again. The coyotes that watch the horses. The horses staring defiantly
into the coyotes’ eyes as the sun sets in rural Pennsylvania, a rock face
coming into focus in the distance. The style of the hero
having found his way again, coming into the house, dropping
his hat, sweeping the girl up into his arms as a sunset lowers itself
onto the earth. Intricacies of speaking about the silhouette of those horses
against this sunset. Plumage of the night spilling open.

Where the Hero is Always Late

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It begins with your name in a wave-swelled jar
throwing up salt. And the ocean, so sick of looking at you
all night rocking you in its arms, picks an island

and calls it good. What did you ever know
of annulment? Of casting a wide net and hating
what’s pulled in? No, you are no Odysseus

with at least the temperamental stars
to guide you, back home there is no faithful wife
with hair blooming a glossy raven each night

onto your pillow. You’ve imagined her often, after days
of swimming and letting you hold her, at the window
before dawn peeling a sunburn

from her skin. This is what heroes know nothing about.
There is only the storm.
The morning, too.

Wendy Xu is a graduate of the University of Iowa and a current MFA Candidate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Recently selected by D.A. Powell as the winner of the 2011 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, she has studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the New York State Summer Writers’ Institute. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from CutBank, Pismire, Drunken Boat, Milk Money Magazine, Coal Hill Review and others. She is a Founding Coordinator of the Younger American Poets Reading Series and serves as Editor of iO: A Journal of New American Poetry. (www.wendyxupoetry.com)
6.11 / September 2011