They will tell you that these poems are part of the conspiracy.
Believe them. That they were designed to be used for the least
amount of absorbency, that we are content to lend a hand whenever
we can, that we are content to lend our expertise in frequency to you
should you behoove of it, and they will say good good…
Absorbency: someone enters now through the doggy door on all
fours just for some crushed ice and then exits before a line is
uttered. (Someone else is frying dirt in linseed oil on a pan so
abraded it has begun to flake.)
Absorbency: pillow, paper, cotton, rayon, polyester, polyethylene,
polypropylene, and fiber finishes.
Once there was a woman she was put to sleep for a hundred years,
she was given one single wooden pillow, when she woke up she
read from a list carved into a tablet, flung ancient tampons at her
witnesses. She wanted them to make more noise. It was an
emergency so ubiquitous.
Absorbency: carnal knowledge. All that teetering hull. Yes, believe.
But the poet lost their voice a long time ago. The academic lost
their breath, their pre-speech, a long time ago. It was confiscated,
yes, but they confiscate it from others even so.
Myth of the lullaby. Myth of the frontiersman. Myth that the
words are all we have. Body believe body. No sorries.
It isn’t enough to say. We must doubt as we say. We must double.
We must shake. We must get high as we say. We must be sober
throughout the course of the getting high and think as we say. This
is wrong as we say. What does this mean as we say.
The words are all we have but the words flow through a body, a
breath. This is carnal knowledge. That teetering hull. Is this
negligence is this the you’re forgetting something you’re forgetting
an entire half to the whole our goal? extend
Our borderline: to confiscate our own privacy
Our borderline: in such close proximity
To draw a line in the urinary sand until it offices
Importance of respecting your elders, to let them comb your hair.
With myth, when hair was private parts. That because of so and so,
we think we know what the words sound like and that is enough.
Tell me the fable of the woman combing the woman’s hair telling
the woman a fable.
But let me say this…I believe what they are saying here has been
true. I believe that we were too content. We feasted for a while.
And we learned good good.
Until one day—they moved, they really moved, to a small town, all
of them, off a street off of a town’s main street, where the town’s
lumber truck and its garbage truck went by each day and she’d sip
on her jug, sip on into one of those curmudgeons who bemoans
“the way a town changes and grows…”
Did I ever claim to have witnessed to have been my own witness to
what was getting outlined or nullified on this affidavit.
What I am trying to say is for a while I got high off of the record
keeping, so high and it felt so good that I didn’t even realize the
point in not getting high off of the record keeping. I thought that
was the point.
Inventory: OGX Shampoo, aloe vera gel, rhassoul clay, Seventh
Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Crest, Chlorox (wipes), Unilever/Dove,
Yardley, Dr. Bronner’s, raw honey, helichrysum oil, pumpkin seed
oil, neroli oil, tamanu oil, konjac root, charcoal
Inventory: so, all men ache like this?
I want to continue reading these words. But I walk into town
instead. It is the sleepiness of a town to suffer as a man suffers. I
want to continue reading these words. I am no other human today.
But I am made of product.
Maybe some things I can say to you. Out loud. You’ll sit across
from me. And some things I will read internally to myself. “Pure
This could be the hardest thing I ever do.
They went to town on her.
Valerie Hsiung is a poet, writer, performer, and the author of four full-length poetry and hybrid writing collections–YOU & ME FOREVER (Action Books, 2020), outside voices, please (CSU, 2021), hummingbird et partygirl (Essay Press, 2021), and e f g (Action, 2016). Her work can be found in or is forthcoming from places such as The Nation, The Believer, jubilat, Chicago Review, The Rumpus, and beyond. She has performed at Treefort Music Festival, DC Arts Center, Common Area Maintenance, The Poetry Project, Shapeshifter Lab, and The Silent Barn. Born and raised by Chinese-Taiwanese immigrants in southern Ohio, she now lives in New York. You can visit her website at valeriehsiung.com.