Word for/ Word

Jenny Wu

from 60 Banned Books

Cito prudents,
cito pii,
cito mariti,
cito patres,
cito sacerdotes,
cito omnis officii capaces et curiosi.


Beneath a painted rose vignette
I mimic my mother, putting away the bread,
Washing sediment into the quagmire.
A friend from another life once took me down to the wine cellar:
"Can I have a word with you?
I have saved this word from the revolution.
Let us finish it together."
I started hearing it--the singing, the
watery tune in my head, (I was
singing to a child) and I remembered
why I didn't think so much as a child.
It was because I was singing. (To
myself.) And then I remembered
how being a child was like living
without thinking--my adult self
treading through the woods haunted
by a voice that was not singing to me.

What now? Nothing lately. "Have you finally done it?"
She inquires down the hall. "Have you bought your old mother
Her eternal life?"

I quite like eating alone
Fucking heartbroken.
Days lengthening, shoes retiring--
spring: I open the window to my roof
and announce, No one's here! No
one's here again!
I take inventory of who's hungry:
Who's hungry? Enter the gentle priest
who once on a ship to
America assured me I was not,
despite what I may have thought (in
all my youth and glory, hopped up
and waving newspaper clippings) a


A library for banned books:
Either there was nothing outside or there was a ceaseless thunderstorm
Carrying a strange song and an even stranger singer.
The librarian had a cold. She suckled her cigarette with a seasick expression.
My mother put on gloves as she walked by and out the door,
Imagining the palace of Kubla Khan, the far east before it met the far blue west,
A land pregnant with mythos, fear, and ecstasy. Bird in box.
She removed from her pocket a hide book whose
Wrinkles lay flat, uncombed, and penciled in an entry. There are only
three types of people I trust:
intellectuals, doctors, and barbers
. . . . . Lights navigated around her,
Twine-colored and restless forms. She had been to Meter Dei, God's driftwood,
And knew what would happen if a mouse jumped over a candlestick,
Miscalculated by a fine gray hair, and, in awe, threw itself upon the curtains,
The rug, the books, the lampshades, etc. cinders & smoke.
Eventually the floor would sink under red anthills, she imagined,
The balustrade, the ottomans, the window's two-barred cross,
Inks, charcoals: their muscadine odor would offend the canary
Who rattles the cage with his toe.
Tropical trees would sprout overnight from the walls,
Slowly rattling and stretching, limbs asunder,
A fresh rubbery noise, letting their tendrils breathe.
She sat on her bed. Two shadows cast from the door:
A moment later one was gone, but she heard him in the garden,
Where he began to prey upon the vegetation, lying down in it,
Acquiescent and giddy and pulling the branches of flowering camellia near to his face.



She's been away, by the sea,
For once, seeing everything.
Pewter, she says.


He had been taking a hot shower, the shadow recalls, scrubbing his body raw
with a pinch of salt flattened against his palm
& letting the steam out from the window above the drain.
It was a primitive darkness on both sides of the window
when he decided to travel the world, out of the filth of the city,
veering off to take on a mile of dust, to hobble past the expansive countryside,
with its lakes as green as soap & its ducks fluffing themselves out of wooden shacks
like seas of palpating white hearts. The boles of distant mountains stood there with
the mysterious and frustrating grace of an unfinished bridge, stretching into nowhere.
They were treading upon the divine lives of farmers. Two shadows among others.
The ochre rust turned green with the coming of night
& hung about the tiled walls and windows like dressing on a ship underwater,
where the train came to its last stop: a mum fog rose from the outskirts.
They were running low on water and the menagerie of farmers
were beginning to stagger out of their rubble
as if they had just fallen out of the sky onto a new continent
when the little foreboding road broke down into sand.
He waited at the door in the primitive garden as his friend disappeared into the fronds
& carnivorous roses. A vine through the eye.
"Bloomed out of his mind," he said, and I did not believe this story.


"When you come upon the dog-eared page,"
they said,

"Do not be fooled by god.
It is god against the entire universe.
And this is the age of the universe!"

Sometimes pain lifts the soul into the night sky:
A shadow theater of one hand.

We are alone but not hidden.

Full of desire, the moon climbs out of the well.
The sculptures are washed by rain.
Memory speaks the mantra of what we must be: even freer, even freer...
One invisible guest mingles with coattails and shoes.
Escapes from the wedding to some ancient riverbed,
Cracks a macadamia as he walks.
Who would want to move south?
The city is restless. Everyone is waiting for something they paid for.
The muted August heat rises from their heads,
having drawn the day's contributions toward a collective enchantment.
August birds in all wolf-colors
Had scorned Mother's gifts, laughing, O please!
Another clandestine sonnet!
Our sculptures tell us what it means to be human:
So many heads without bodies. So many bodies without heads.
Within every solid object are a thousand gears unwinding,
elegies grow like grape vines where the optic nerve should be, vines hold up the moon.

"When you come upon the dog-eared page."
I asked the abyss but the abyss answered too quickly.


My mother's song
My mother's song
My song
My song My song

Light that does not shine does not exist.
Once again, the real world triumphs over the divine.
Old ozymandias in gold, those rings you wear,
All ten fingers,
What do they mean?
Why do you beckon me with the black stone and cup my face with hardened flesh?
And will I get a seat in heaven? After all?
Or must I lean on walls as it is on earth?

"Let me tell you a story." "No more."
Before us, the carcasses of shrimp. A weightless life of slime leaks out of them,
In the hot afternoon. We begin using the word life in place of quantity:
A life of grain, measured out. A great life of time spent without a home.
"The shelter of the palmetto awaits."
"Even before I have finished writing about earth you are tempting me with thoughts of heaven."



We will scatter this light
over the black ocean,
Or no