The first page of the giant Snow Novel (roast)
(for Roberto Bolaño)
(The shapes of the letters… of your poem. I haven’t read it yet. I just rewrote it. The letters in your handwriting. Your hand shaking and speaking-acting on the world. I just re-wrote it.) Hello, prairies of tiger-grass, hello. The sky-of-your-prairiness is spreading over me, as I bathe. The softly purple light-of-that-sky, is singing me to there, as I bathe. If we disappeared, language would bring us back. Your poems would bring us back, all fuzzy like tiger-ghost-prairies that we don’t know how to spell. It’s ok. Just use the letters that will lose enough light. Just enough. Just enough for us to write the Snow Novel… which I think is reaching towards prayer-as-naming. Whenever you write is time-without-writing, like wings braiding themselves into the bookshelf, the bed, the postcards-stuck-to-the-ceiling, the geometry of the walls, the old blankets from Beijing. Can’t you feel itall calling out to fly? And it does, it flies, it snows, until the postcards flip away your heart. The Snow Novel grows wheels but there’s no door. It drives itself through my bathroom likea ghost in love with bathwater, with being-unforgivably-changed. Remember those shapes? They were letters as well. You could have read it twice. You could have stopped time to look at me, eating the string lights like they’re all absolutely one. Shapes-of-letters, letters, form, the perfect immaterial. The myth ofactuality, riding alongside me through miles of pine trees, laughing as the sun rises right fucking before our eyes…
Ending, longing, ending again, roasting (roast)
Confrontation, at the end. Being saved, at the end.
A wide, open field, mustard green. Us… writing poetry
in it? Us, writing cold water. Writing halos
on our own bodies. It doesn’t have to be us.
If anyone wrote this poem we would fly through
their room. Their tiles, sticky with orange
blossom honey, all poemed up…. Their white
ropes (hold this) tying them to the Soft Materials. Rain,
warm snow, huge (hold this) praying hands. It’s like we
took the life-dreams of all the crooning ducks on that
lake, theory-of-colors-ed them into all these (hold these) life-dream-feathers,
and wore them like crowns. What happened to the
honey? Oh. The bottle fell from my hands so I could
hold the rope, hold the praying hands. Now,
honey is all over my legs, all over the floor. If
I fell asleep who would turn off the lights and then
turn off the dark. There’s honey in every
self-knot on the rope. I didn’t lose
it all. I only lost my gaze-unto-terror of it all. I only
lost my driving-like-the-first-maverick-of-daisies of
it all. I want to reach out, just reach out, into the
light-yellow breath of routine and pull you out of it. Your
wide open arms (like the field), your simultaneity-with-me,
your belly full of images, like a panther. There’s a
way I know I can do it, I just need the spirit of calling-
out to call out. I just need the spirit of flying to fly:
Well, if flying doesn’t change the ground, I will.
Well if spirit doesn’t rearrange the soul, its columns, I will.
“Well, if knowing the future doesn’t change
the past, I’ll just have to forget both.”
Riding away… roast…
Five shimmering canyons? Now there’s only six.
It feels like the world is growing out of
the world. I really… have never rode away. I’ve been
there. I’ve been there, singing. I’ve been there, reading
your poetry. And then the dream where I forget
how to read, one word at a time. Oh. I’m in
my bedroom & the sheets are gone. The bed is swaying.
It’s like… someone rode through here to leave little
persimmons behind. I’m throwing… you off the
balcony, as we write the third poem. Turns out,
we’ll never have to finish it, but we do. That’s
why I’m throwing you… why you’re flying… why
the poem flies after me to catch you. Who
will pick us up? I’m hiding in the freezer
while you turn into light, into everything you
want except it’s seen from the perspective
of light (& the curtains are white, so white
it’s summer again.)
The bridge… we’re dropping tea leaves off the bridge
and laughing. Why are we here? Like, here here I mean.
It has something to do with the pure
wings of a story, ya know? It would make the
water fold us back into selves we never were, hair
so wet we don’t know which of us is underwater and which
will live forever. Like… really forever, ya know? I hid
everything — the old pears, the mirrors, the sound so
that now you can hear me. You can hear me empty the world for you.
YONGYU CHEN is a PhD student in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard and JES SMITH will be a physics PhD at NYU’s Courant Institute next fall. They met as undergrads at Cornell, which is where they started writing the snow novel. Their collaborative work has also appeared in New Delta Review, Eachother Journal, and Cornell’s Marginalia Review.