A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Wendy Xu

actualized morning 

I am always standing

at the prow of a trash barge

in the morning

while an uninteresting companion

asks obtuse questions

about water. The smell would try

to peel my skin,

but what a good mirror

discomfort is. I put on a blue dress

to love you, but you

are lost to time

and money. The most tedious journey

is inward where like

a peach pit we roll around

for years

on the soggy deck.

I keep a light on for progress.

I tell you to stick around

with those stupid

brown shoes climbing up

and down the stairs.

Nobody ever means

to bloom.


poem for massachusetts


All the green in New England outside

I live in this little yellow house

My porch sags to the left in a charming way

With my books stacked row by tidy row

Moons in the empty room

And I do not belong to sadness

It belongs to me

The windows fly open at odd hours

Come on in

I wear long blue housepants to dust the floors

I was born somewhere else in the eighties

To parents who love me

In a country that loves me

The night is a dark sermon about this

It is a clock with too many arms

The night is whatever it wants to be

It does not buy into my complaining

I guess I will take my business elsewhere




hiding in the overglow


Down at the corner bakery I am touching a to-go box

Someone drives by three times in a black truck

This makes me very nervous

Because I have been watching crime shows

In last night's particularly good episode

We finally saw the protagonist behold his despair

He threw a pizza onto the roof in frustration

Which is how I feel

In my kitchen at night when I see everything

Standing in my underwear like I deserve to

I am poking at the weird membrane between any two people

That was a thought about science

It is so applicable

It deals in numbers and correctness

It is not like my favorite part in movies where the hero

Is still "figuring it out"

Maybe a few bad guys "get away with it" as a result

I do what my poems want and am clean

You are in one of two possible oceans


I have a silver bracelet that my aunt gave me when I was a teenager--I wore it every day for 7 years, and it became an anxiety tic of mine to tighten and loosen it when I was nervous. Now it sits in a box in my dresser, about one squeeze away from snapping in half. I take it out and sit with it a few times a week, and likely will forever. I hardly ever get to see my aunt (she lives with the other 95% of my family in China), and I like the feeling of abstract togetherness I get when I hold it. It's a sad and happy souvenir. It's just like being a person, in that way.

Wendy Xu is the author of You Are Not Dead (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2013) and I Was Not Even Born(Coconut Books), a collaboration with Nick Sturm. Recent work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, Poetry Society of America, Gulf Coast, The Volta, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She co-edits and publishes iO: A Journal of New American Poetry / iO Books, and teaches writing at UMass-Amherst.