It’s midterm season at Princeton, lungs & head full & lit up in the humming living fortnight before fall break begins. So soon, so soon, so soon I will be on an airplane away from all this glorious chaos & once more tucked between the four walls of home—but until then everything is moving impossibly fast, a reckoning around every corner. & isn’t this too poetry. It feels like I came to this university at once eternities & pearl-strung moments ago; I find such joy here & also such anxiety, both a symphony & a cacophony, both a privilege & a terror. (Multitudes. Always multitudes.)
Several notes for you, loves, in case you may have missed all of the swirling heart-swelled news: my first event in America is happening this Thursday, October 17, at Princeton’s 1879 Arch! I had the honour of joining one of our slam poetry groups on campus & will be sharing my work for the first time Thursday evening alongside the other new recruit this year, the lovely Annabel Dupont. I can’t wait to see you there.
Over at Half Mystic, the small press & literary journal I run, we just announced our nominees for the 2020 Pushcart Prize! Also, preorders open this Friday for the debut novella published by Half Mystic Press, Sammie Downing’s The Family That Carried Their House On Their Backs, which was hailed by Mark Mayer as "a wise and stunning novella of intense tenderness", & by Kaisa Cummings as "one of my favorite books ever written ... this story brings me to my knees". This book means so much to me & our team, & I can’t wait for you to see why.
Finally, a quiet reminder that I am coming home this November to be a featured author in the 2019 Singapore Writers Festival. Here are all the events I’ll be featured in—& if you’d like to help me fund my way to Singapore & back to Princeton once more, please consider purchasing a copy of my fourth book, Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing, which is out now. (& to those who already have—especially to the not-inconsiderable number who have sent far larger donations than I ever expected—you don’t know how much it means to me. You are such a gift.)
If you’re on the fence about ordering Portrait, you might enjoy an excerpt from the book! This little bewitchment of a poem is “The Night You Are Diagnosed”, one of the first poems I composed for Portrait & later published in DIALOGIST (an absolute dream journal of mine; I’m so grateful to be here). I wrote it in a time when I didn’t totally see the hope of something brighter on the horizon, & now I’m in a place where the fear remains & the sadness remains & the obsession remains yet somehow, crowded in alongside it all, are joy & hope & wonder. If you’ve bought the book, thank you. If you’ve supported Half Mystic, thank you. If you’re coming to see me at any of my events in Princeton or Singapore, thank you. I hope you know I do this for you. All of this is yours.
The Night You Are Diagnosed
after Austin Smith
you name every rifle in your father’s
hunting cabinet another synonym
for escape. This crevasse, a rite
of passage: your hands trembling
in unknowns, exquisitely foreign
& freezing in the dark. Somewhere
in a city drowning in dusk,
your mother tries to shape your sorrow
into something she can blame herself for.
By the side of a road, a dead man
promises his children that tomorrow
he will wake from hibernation.
The precise moment it comes,
you are infinity within creased knuckles,
wishbone from a body that is not yours
or one that was, once, until you traded it
for the memory of incandescence.
Listen: every deer in this forest
is learning the sound of anguish.
Listen: the moon rises so loud the sky
turns black in fear. In some other
version of this night, your body knows
all the places it has not yet been.
Perhaps one day you will relearn
the art of inhaling, but today is not
that day. Instead there is only your
father’s cabinet, somehow swinging
open. Mouth glinting, soulless, teeth
as so many rifles swimming helpless
& hungry in their trapped