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Feng Sun Chen

BREAK BREAK BREAK (On thy cold gray stones O Sea) [an excerpt]

Indeed I am all thought without language, Matthew.

Perhaps one should not understand the generational divide as one that splits subjectivity
itself. Experience is not to be understood. It is to be digested. A generational divide is a
cycle of elimination that does not stop. When my mother's heart hurts, mine hurts too, but
with a voice that has developed self-consciousness the way only a teen with a magazine
could. A voice fractured and quiet from being inside-out. Life is acidic. The lesson I must
learn is extreme. I don't know how I broke my mother's heart. Does everyone's heart
break when their love turns around and shows a stranger's face? Because I will not obey,
I hurt. The world has burned and ruined and changed and I am not my mother's child.
That is why. The wounded heart goes on. Mom does not read my poetry because she
cannot understand it, or my failures. She is fluent enough in English to be an all-american
suburbanite. CCTV streams into the living room, an eruption/interruption of images. Her
love for me is broad and deep, and it is unfathomable.

Black tar between stars flutter with secrets.

Nicole, your father and I worked very hard to give you the life you have.
We sacrificed. We want you to live. The best for you.Safety, comfort, a home.

Membranes inside my body learn by the friction of muscles and moving parts where in
space my parts are... I can feel every part... I am the lucky one... Where would I be
without my mouth slug? The blood is not horrified... It is a worm or a stone... a memory
of worm or stone...

My name is Nicole and I am here to give you my life... you are now my name and you
are my lover... the bent I you strive to curve into yourself and this is how I achieve
disappearance and the orgasmic gap... you are the seer of my pond eyes and my myopia...
you are the host body for my virility... the lies that unite us as bodies capable of many
things... of many pains... Among exoskeletons you will inherit the world... which has not
had arrived—she who does not believe that the meek inherit will inherit silver
mushrooms… animals trample them their claws raptor… evolved from creature… pure jaw pure
bone pure enamel… from this…

The bodies were killed for no reason... “Japan” wanted something from them... If they
felt that they were being punished... they might have repented... Their version of
repentance would have a slightly different flavor than the Christian orthodox... “Heaven
is not partial to anyone and will assist those people who are virtuous... loyalty changes
and only kindness will win them over...“What is virtuous is always up for debate... The
quietest and clearest virtue that lies within each man blossoms at the Listerine
humiliation of completion... Completion is the filling in of clefts in heaven... Each man
has a cleft the shape of his body in Heaven... And this hole must be filled at the whimsy
of Fate’s evil child... Now the ego shrivels and fear mates with confusion and despair...
Still one must also remember the blister of ecstasy that bursts at the moment of rupture...
It is a story passed down to me through books and media... My family never speaks of
it... my commodified ancestors only through silence and helplessness... For example... a
scene in a movie in which two fools gaze at a shitty gray sky in a beach in southern China
and one says “It’s a beautiful day... isn’t it? Look at how blue the sky is...” The blue
remembered pours out of the blister... At the threshold of completion the crooked
architecture of the soul

Though I went to a private Christian kindergarten as a Singaporean child of staunchly
athiest parents, I did not first learn the concept of sacrifice from the Church. I learned it
from my parents, their self-proclaimed Chinese work ethic and deep, deep filial piety
which did not become a marker of ethnicity until we left the tropical malady of
Singapore. Left the monsoon and sublime monotony of sun, one immigration and
imitation-crab for another one.

Durian became offensive and foreign. The grass was soft so soft like the insides of crab,
the shell of the sky hard and blue, the lawn grass wet and newborn like the baby rabbits
hanging out from Snowball's tiny uterus, babies I would not see but only through pictures
from her new family. How it tore me up to leave her behind, this soft watery creature
whose flesh leaked out of the wire cage we kept her in, my cruelty. In my longer,
convulsive pre-teen body, I did not yet realize that there was much more I was leaving
behind. My tiny friends wrote me tiny letters and sent me tiny plastic photographs taken
in fluorescent booths at the shopping center where escalators crawled so high you could
touch heaven's plastic underside. Everything became tiny. Loneliness was tiny, but dense,
heavy, fever-sore, perverse.

A constellation of pustules appeared on my forehead and my pores began to open, my
skin split. The new sun was cool and lemony, like a bottled soft drink. I saw it set over a
large grocery store, the likes of which I'd never seen. All awash in religious feeling, I saw
what my mother and father lived and died for in the back of my own face as I came upon
it, a desire of pale things.

Pine trees are secretive. My first impressions of you were the dreamy landscapes of E.T.'s
California. Not the real California, not even the High Definition version we have now,
which had not yet come into form then, but the California of dark woods at night where
aliens scuttled and pine trees swayed under the transmissions of outer space.

I'm so inside that I'm outside. Inside-out, heavy lobes hang from tendons and fatty
connective tissues. Somehow the organs gallop in their suspension. I am painting a
picture of a gymnast leaping from a yellow sea like a dolphin breach. I'm inside a
classroom with high, tiny windows. Time gathers in folds. Morality is in the attention, to
give attention. The folds of a hairless cat, the folds of a mutant dog breed, the folds of
your eyes, the folds of my father's birthdays changing his face, the folds of my anxiety. I
am sitting in room full of meditating bodies, steaming and radiating heat. My friend
sitting beside me inside a sac of elegance desires to minimize suffering in the world. He
is already reducing my suffering with his attention.

I have loved you all my life

Where is a person born?
oh that is a dark place, baby, it’s nothing like where you were born
Where was I born?
you were born, baby, in a cloud of beautiful flowers
made of rainbows and golden corn

to write through the unisex of feminine annihilation which has an organ of shame that
once touching another organ lights up in unseen colors
(to which daddy says, why don’t you move beyond the binary)
meanwhile I am told and I know
war is going on, people are brutalized
raped and tortured
this secret won’t make you feel better
but so many lines are the arms that hold a broken person through the night
and you were once sure that real love will wreck you
against craggy Tennysonian rocks.
My love is miniature and forgetful of itself, too bad it is heterosexual
but it looks good in a complicit sweater.
What is a secret encounter? Where does my arrogance come from
that I should look upon confusion and judge
that I should believe that things do not have to be the things they are!
To be a person who only feels like a baby is the karma of our ages.
But bleeping on the internet the air stokes my skeins
rumbling out invisible fabrix…

Duality is a false truth but the rhythm of life and the spirit reflect the reality of

And the witch told me, what is a book but a repository for the saliva of ghosts? It has
glands that get infected, form cysts, that cry when touched, and I still remember the
sounds of the other world that belonged to us in common.
We no longer hear, but even as you operate
the thin stream of your national life, there is no way
for everything to take shape that needs to be said.
The meek have been listening for centuries and centuries
and still the question is
Why were there dinosaurs on this earth and
Why have we been abandoned? and How have we forgotten?
What have we done without knowing?
Something essential had been broken
so that the answers come crawling back to us mangled and confused,
inhumanely beautiful, a trail of signs.

Refuge? Refuse? No refuge but in refuse refusing fuse. Refuse to hold on to anything.
Nothing has fused me so tightly to human life as suffering but nothing has brought me so
close to death either. And nothing has bound me so closely to it as the aggression inside
my body that is outside my body when I see the hamster in you I want to scream and kill
because it is pulling me out of the skinwomb. To fuse is to become nothing and
everything,everynothingness is the gift you have grant me.

I never thought I would end up with a daughter like this! Nicole-ah, you are so fragile. So
weak and strange. When you were a child, you were so normal, so obedient. I don't know
what happened, but it certainly has to be intentional, that you wish to oppose your
parents' desires. What lies in your heart is a little malice in the shape of a white rabbit
covering a snake.

A mechanism may produce life beyond itself. Genetic material and gods communicate
through forms. Crystals resonate and create. Sound is form. Music is repetition.
Repetition is the purest expression of form. One day, I decided to stop giving myself
form. I don't play an instrument. I rarely sing. Piano lessons from the age of four to the
age of twelve, twelve the age of inversion, when I turned inward completely and
collapsed. I could not be a musician, I wanted to protect myself. Everything that was
inside of me was vulnerable, and music seemed to shatter the body open. There is
nakedness on the stage, there is nakedness in music. I was too afraid to show that I was
afraid, sad, lonely, that I felt desire and love. Because there was no room for the
tenderness I knew. It was then that I began to long for god. A shell without its clam, a
clam without its shell. Neither can feel the water.

When mom was my age, she would go with my father, then a doctorate candidate at the
university, through the Minnesotan suburbs, and gaze longingly at the old houses,
wishing against hope that someday they might have a house of their own. I became a Self
in America, curled like a maggot inside one of those houses. The self alone. Inside, but
without a foundation of power or magic, a collapsing star, infinitely desperate and thirsty,
hot as light, my loneliness echoed the behemoth appetite of our global economy, a global
beast without the knowledge of love, only its images. But if love was the very air we
breath, I could not have received it. If love is the world, I have forgotten how to be in it.

Then you must be the memory of how.

This is a cold call.

Jupiter is a slow moving planet, which is an interesting effect of its own expansiveness.

I remember when you told me that truth is always out of reach. You were in my bed, in
flames as usual. The fire was coming out of the creases of your elbows and the folds of
your neck, but mostly your nostrils and the folds of your pelvic vegetation. In that
moment I do not know if I was inside or outside. If I was throughout or in between. I
remember falling in every direction like a packet of light ground relentlessly through
crystal. I remember a lifetime of wondering, lectured to by ghosts and their dead, the
dead, who have a monopoly on the Real, though they know nothing about the Real. I
said, like a brave child with eyes as big as saucers, I'm tired of an identity in response to
nothingness. And then I left the body of dualities and became an astrocyte.

I don't care about hair.
But you need to look professional
and respectable. How do you think others see you?
I don't care about how others see me.
You care about nothing.
I care for a lot.
How do you suppose your employers
will view you if you look disheveled like that?
They don't seem to care.
Oh, and no one else does?
I could do a survey for you and ask around.
Your friends will not tell you the truth.
Here, in America, they will all say that you look fantastic.

Where can I direct your call? Would you direct my call? How can I direct your call?

We've burned it all to hell again and then. I know nothing about your history, or of mine.
I know what it's like to be a white boy in love with a white girl. I know what it's like to be
a lost girl, or an exotic dinner plate. I know what it's like to be the child of a floating
mother cut off from a traumatized country that was once many kingdoms. I know what it
is like to be a baby. Your skin is sunlight dripping from microwavable chalices. I see
glittering dust motes in it. Inside the chalice beats a dozen tiny chicken hearts and my
father's adolescent dreams. We both want to write letters to our brothers.

Returning to an old innocent I become opaque and transparent. There are no blemishes to
squeeze. I am like a fruit. Within compassion there is no fear. There is no shame.

What is it to keep it real? What is it to keep it? What is it to keep? What can I hold and
what can I keep? Are you my brother? are you my mother? Am I your keeper and are you
real? Is keeping what makes us real, in how we are constituted by each other's love and
projections, and how we defy them. Nothing is ours to keep but we must keep giving. If
truth is everything then it is always out of reach. If it is objective then it does not exist. If
truth is only definition then it might as well not exist. What is real is always beyond
yourself. What is it like to be you? Nothing exists without its relation to other things.
Truth is relationship. It is feeling your pain and ecstasy. It is open in song and
woundedness. It is deep uncertainty. It is democratic. It is ecological. Unsettling,
unbelievable, I have faith in it. Thank you for being true to me.

What is a glimpse? Have I glimpsed you in your nakedness? Looking in the wrong
places, when nakedness is not inside or outside, and all I have are your throbulent insides
and the death-defying sky brown movement of the part of you that touches outside, the
inside that flips, is flipped, that exposes exposed to the outside like fur.

It took me years to learn how to feel again.

The worship of death begins at conception.

Against the tide, you must learn to affirm yourself and what you were born to create, that
such a world necessitates aliens, fixes enclosures that invite infection, leakage,

I'm going to see you through. I'm going to finish you. I'm going to bury you.

Alas, the beast’s appetite could only be satiated by human flesh. Every now and then, a
ship loaded with youngsters sailed from far away Athens bound for Crete – to deliver its
human tribute to be devoured by the Minotaur. A gruesome ritual that was essential for
preserving the era’s Peace and for reproducing its Prosperity.

What exactly am I trying to animate?
What do I try to emanate?
To imitate or immanent?

Not to recuperate. The shivers on the surface of my skin are profound.

I have seen the brundleberries of the world feed their wounds with brain food.
They are so beautiful, seeping out the juices filling out the lace of the organ skin.
There are no more questions, but I am remembering a time when I believed that hell was
real. And it is real. But when you come to brink and blink to find your own humiliation
become ashes in the face of a genesis, and you become the person you used to hate, and
you write the poems you used to hate, then you are closer to the edge of the tiny cherry
angioma in the orca/thick/velvet night still that will set you free.

By day, Feng Sun Chen works at a nursing home in Minneapolis, by night she creates biting poetry such as her latest collection, The 8th House (Black Ocean 2015). She is also the author of the book of poetry Butcher’s Tree (Black Ocean 2011) and the chapbooks Ugly Fish (Radioactive Moat 2011), Arcane Carnal Knowledge (Mortal Steaks 2012), and blud (Spork Press 2011).