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About this Poem 

"On my thirty-fifth birthday, three months after moving to Ohio, a man in Zanesville released his menagerie of fifty-some exotic animals and then killed himself. I was feeling strange about time and place, the threads connecting the past to the present to the future, and I was haunted by the sudden perilous freedom of these animals whose presence that day was marked not by their bodies but by highway signs warning 'Caution Exotic Animals.' The greatest dangers may be the ones we can’t see–the rustling in the woods one reporter noted months later that could’ve been the wind or an ornery tiger, or the wonderful and terrifying future which seems to get remade with every new decision we make."
Jennifer Chang

Freedom in Ohio

Jennifer Chang

                        on my birthday

I want a future
making hammocks
out of figs and accidents.
Or a future quieter
than snow. The leopards
stake out the backyard
and will flee at noon.
My terror is not secret,
but necessary,
as the wild must be,
as Sandhill cranes must
thread the meadow
yet again. Thus, autumn
cautions the cold
and the wild never want
to be wild. So what
to do about the thrum
of my thinking, the dangerous
pawing at the door?
Yesterday has no harmony
with today. I bought
a wool blanket, now shredded
in the yard. I abided by
dwelling, thought nothing
of now. And now?
I’m leopard and crane,
all’s fled.

Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Chang. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 12, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Chang. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 12, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Jennifer Chang

by this poet

poem
I cross the street
and my skin falls off. Who walks
to an abandoned lake? Who
abandons lakes? I ask questions
to evade personal statements. When you are
skinless, you cannot bear to be
more vulnerable. With skin, I
would say I am in love with
Love as in that old-time song
crooners like to croon. With skin
poem
Something in the field is
working away. Root-noise.
Twig-noise. Plant
of weak chlorophyll, no
name for it. Something
in the field has mastered
distance by living too close
to fences. Yellow fruit, has it
pit or seeds? Stalk of wither. Grass-
noise fighting weed-noise. Dirt
and chant. Something in the
field.
poem
It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked 
for bacon in my sandwich, and then 

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar: 

I did not use a knife. I lied 
about what he did to my faith 
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake. 
Faith in loneliness