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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And Then It Was Less Bleak Because We Said So - Wendy Xu

Today there has been so much talk of things exploding
into other things, so much that we all become curious, that we
all run outside into the hot streets
and hug.  Romance is a grotto of eager stones
anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth
you can always see.  With more sparkle and pop
is the only way to live.  Your confetti tongue explodes
into acid jazz.  Small typewriters
that other people keep in their eyes
click away at all our farewell parties.  It is hard
to pack for the rest of your life.  Someone is always
eating cold cucumber noodles.  Someone will drop by later
to help dismantle some furniture.  A lot can go wrong
if you sleep or think, but the trees go on waving
their broken little hands.


What I get from this poem is that in tragedy, or in the collision of two forces, be they things, ideals, people, there is always generation and destruction.  The first two lines, "things exploding into other things" makes me think of the tragedy of 9/11, particularly as it continues on to say "we all run outside into the streets and hug."  Tragedy brings people together, fueled by some innate human desire to love in the face of adversity.

The metaphors for romance here are provocative.  Imagining the way a stone heats up in the sun is like the feeling one gets in the pit of the stomach when thinking about a loved one.  "Your confetti tongue explodes into acid jazz" to me is a statement on just how varied and wonderful our speech can be, and to me also contains all of the thrills of a kiss with a lover.  The idea that we write our goodbyes with our eyes, as if we have typewriters is novel, because it's commonly held that we speak with our eyes, so why not write with them?  All of these images have a sense of the bizarre about them, but are also generative images, productive images.

I think my favorite aspect of the poem is the way time goes on, regardless of how things turn out.  "A lot can go wrong if you sleep or think" to me seems to caution against over-thinking,  No matter what we do, "the trees go on waving their broken little hands."  Even broken things go on, and everything is alright.  It seems quietly reassuring to think that even in the wake of tragedy, the wind will still stir the trees, and our hearts will still stir with emotions, and love.

The title is also very encouraging, to me.  It's a statement of determination, of dictating one's own reality.  It has a stubbornness to it that I find very endearing.  Why is it less bleak?  Because we said so!  It's a refusal to let the good things in life be buried by tragedy, and bolsters the idea that happiness comes from within and is something one chooses.

Re-posted from www.poetryfoundation.org with permission from the author.

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