Dream with Lamp and Belly After the turbulent years were over, we went to the sea Your hat cast a specific shadow over the moon of your face The tide pools were bottomless with questions and fear The water was loud, it covered everything Your hat cast a shadow over the moon of your face Your collarbone shone with its own particular light The water was loud, and covered everything We were happy together and both of us were well Your collarbone shone with its own particular light At nighttime I kissed it, rubbed my cheek against your belly We were happy together for a long time and both of us were well You turn off the lamp and ask if I’m ready to come out At nighttime I kiss you, run my thumb across your nose You turn on the lamp and see that I am hiding You turn off the lamp and ask if I’m ready to come out The moon of your face pulls the tide to the panes We turn on the lamp and see each other hiding The moon of your face pulls the tide closer to the panes We are happy together for a long time, and both of us are well After the turbulent years are over, we go together to the sea
I Guess I guess the distance between two people is vast. I guess each year the earth spins a bit closer to the sun. I guess my parents will never grow younger again, that the spring thaw will come, and the bald patch where the vet shaved the fur for the injection on the cat’s leg will grow back just in time for shedding. I guess we will lie a little, prevaricate with stories, and think it is a favor. And I guess that sometimes, we will tell each other our honest feelings. I guess we touch our hands during the fading of a soft eastern light. And I guess the gulls wail when they cross the wide cerulean sea. I guess that sometimes, for a short time, the distance between two people grows closer.
From the author: These two poems were first drafted on the same night during the beginning of a relationship, which started under very volatile circumstances. You can see my hope for peace, stability, and the closing of distance in them–and also, underneath, a shadow of fear. I had just read “Music from Childhood” by John Yau and was very interested in repetition when I wrote “Dream of Lamp with Belly,” which was one of my first pantoums. The poet Tracy Fuad helped me think of the title, which I really like for its abstract, surreal quality. And out of all the poems I’ve written, “I Guess” is one of the truest and closest to my heart. I find life is really like that–full of grief and hope.
Cleo Qian is a writer from California. She received her MFA at NYU. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, Shenandoah, The Massachusetts Review, Zocalo Public Square, The Margins, and elsewhere. Her first book, LET’S GO LET’S GO LET’S GO, a collection of short stories, is forthcoming from Tin House in August 2023.