Geneva Chao

Geneva Chao is a poet and translator. She has work in the recent L.A. Telephone Book and forthcoming in New American Writing.

from one of us is wave one of us is shore

a litany in absence. un discours fragmenté. all
the pieces falling en miettes.
we have this language of precision. we refine our
precision in this: not bits but shards, thin, lacerating.

ma mie. when you break me i shatter
still a voice murmurs, a breath hovers just
above the white surface of a sheet

a miette is a bit of that soft center. an acquiescent
crumb. la tremper dans ton liquide. to make
uniform again. vanquished in any rain.

how can we say words
to each other when each only shades into
difference? i push myself into
your palate. tu m’y attends. this absolves me
of context, this unpins thought from tidy rows.

i tumble
into your tongue. a torrent. ça déborde. a grammar
of delectation. obedient.

it is beautiful like being born
it is excruciating so.
or a practice of keeping mum. we have
been dealt all the same cards, we have visited
identical stations. all coded for race, for age, for
nation. perhaps for suffering. perhaps for travails.

or, you see in this a cognate. an easy belief. a
mistake to be made lightly

a salty surface. la superficie. you lie
static and accept acclaim.

a mirror is a liar. are we blinded by the congruence
of these shapes, to not discern
underneath a glitter ?

you have tu m’as effacé la langue erased my
tongue. j’accepte

because the heimlichkeit of your lines is lull. i
sail my fingers across your bow. afloat, i tighten
my lips.

i am flat against
your skin. the trapdoor in the ceiling

a blind eye. insolence.
when the word orients itself, it takes direction.

i had accepted in a creed of words, in permanence.
a weight. the word a cube viewed
from every side. a surface of sheen

this is less so, depending: yoked.
not depending, not
hung around necks but rather cast in different light

that changes even form, plastic, or turning
like flowers to the sun. no weight except

in conference. you write me, mais c’est aléatoire,

impossible to know what is chance
and what is risk,
what is random
and what is improvised.

impossible to capture
a pattern.
before the rut of wheels, a track
to follow, a wrong
to get off on.

plié, relevé. to fold and to lift
the mirror’s figure makes

the eye cannot judge a line of bone and
flesh nor the ear a breath

an infinite arm in the mirror
an illusion

a history of names: how near’s east
in this arch, is it

a lady in pointed slippers
earning her nights with her tongue

can a spine create oasis
can a word translate
into coin
in absence imagination is a blanket
or a mantle. possibles conjured to fill
the white space

qu’on ranime un temps mort
            that we revive a dead time
qu’on se propose un temps imaginaire
            that we propose an imaginary time

time is the point of a needle: to stand

parlons-en du futur du subjonctif
parlons-en de l’imparfait
c’est bête comme code
(je dis ça d’un air admiratif)

to suggest a tense that does not exist in our
language to delineate the space where what is not

l’hypothèse c’est un bouclier contre
la peur (maybe shields us from mourning)

a thousand maybes cet avenir l’amour un temps
imaginaire without translation

qu’on y vive