always the clock, always the corridor, always the staircase

Xiao Yue Shan

Photo: Untitled, Michael Howarth


                      after wong kar wai’s
in the mood for love

I am calling something by its name — it’s time. that
which passes for nothing. save for perhaps the surface,
which things rise to meet.

                                                        imagine how we are seen
                                                        opening doors in ourselves.
                                                        ledges scaled to look upon
                                                        one another awhile. willing plates
                                                        to shift under the continent
                                                         of desire, for an island to rise.

what does my voice do, but send me to you, in pieces?

a qipao is made with the woman’s body imagined,
so one only has to gather herself for its form. to clear
the conscience of a double nature, she never takes
it off. darkens it as air does the fruit. as ellipsis does
the sentence.
                                     she is the same seen in light as in shadow
                                     the same in stasis as in flicker

down the hall
                             across the table
                                                               back of a taxi
                                                                                           in a doorway

the world was lived to fill. those who abstain know
something that you and I do not — wanting in itself
is hollow, mere outline tracing a body on dissolving
speech. we are perfect thinking of the other, warm
of each other, clutching at the air as if it were dark.

meanwhile our old habits are looking around
curious to know who will come to fill them.
                                                              my helpless papers, your tray
                                                              of limelit pigments and oils.
objects as the only hope of returning to oneself.

to create a frame of reference, it was thin coat summer,
days dropping as if playing dead, we blinked them away
easy as eyelids. red silk, green glass, black leather, wood.

                                              hall         table         taxi         doorway

it was what could be changed yet
                                                                                  into early and late.
tourniquet in body in memory, one has to be ancient
to live this life. the now as if having already been
a thousand times. I hear the stifled desperation
of the future trying to fight its way into the present,
I put my handover her mouth. I say — let me.

                                                                                        I am extending
                                                                                        passing over
                                                                                        calling you
                                                                                        falling sleep
under the eaves of a question asked a long time ago.

we do not rest at the edge
nor the center of any recollection,
                                                                             but hover above
                                                                             seeking downward.

the capacity of beauty to resist idea. she moves as if
he is watching her — she enters him, watching herself.
pebbling the chessboard corridors of his mind she does
not recognise the half shapes. the half face seen only
in echo’s veils. free is having no ground
to stand upon.

coffee, silver,
shorn head of dark hair, warm tremble of a round mouth.
air irrevocably shaped to hold you there, in place.

space is defined by the open decisions of separation.
hall table taxi doorway. empty is somewhere to say yes in.

how to tell — shine a light there. something will either
appear, or disappear.

I reach for you across this.


Xiao Yue Shan

Xiao Yue Shan is a poet. How Often I Have Chosen Love was published in 2019. Then Telling Be the Antidote will be published in 2023.

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