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About this Poem 

“I was jolted, recently, by a memory of feelings, vast awe and vast ache, which I can get to by shortcut sometimes while standing in the desert or listening to Patsy Cline. What am I to do with such outsized feelings, once—oh hell, often—greater than my sense of self? This poem doesn’t answer that question so much as conjecture a language for answering.”
Jennifer Chang

Patsy Cline

She’s in the desert
releasing the ashes of her father,
the ashes of her child,
or the ashes of the world. She is not

what she observes. The rare spinystar.
It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading
a cloud through the sky. There’s sun enough,
there’s afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash.
I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless

nimbus, faithless thought. In my life,
I have lost two men. One by death,
inevitable. One

by error: a waste. He wept
from a northern state,
hunger too cold
for human knowledge.

Once I was a woman with nothing to say. 

Never did I say ash to ash.
Never has the desert woken me up.
I said
who releases whom?

Inevitably, all have known
what the desert knows. No one
will count the lupine when I’m gone.

No one looks to the sun
for meaning. For meat
I’ve done so much less.

Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage. 

I live in the city where I loved that man.
The ash of him, the self’s argument.

Now and then, I think of his weeping,
how my body betrays me:
I am not done with releasing. 
 

Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang is the author of Some Say the Lark (Alice James Books, 2017). She lives in Washington, D.C.

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                        on my birthday

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