Jane Wong

Above: my neighbor's feet,                         fussing from room to room,                velvet hooves                     tendering my head. Was the fruitcakecurdling? Would the mail make it there on time? (it must                make it there on time)? Below:                 I try to lightthe stove. Little clicks of the tongue, heat and water,                     my altar.                Underground: my grandfather breathes through a silk jacket,a dandelion mane resting between                         his lips. Here: every living                thing is an altar. Sweet worms kiss           his knuckles to sleep,loose doorknobs I open:             story after story. My family:                a spiral staircase, a fish spine                    picked clean, the snail'smiasmic song. 1982: sun gasping through splintering snow,                a lemon slice folded                     in my mother's cup, a generousbulb, a lighthouse across oceans she can not see. 1985: we slept in                a split-level attic,                                    squirrels running acrossthe beams. 1964: my grandfather offers my mother one egg.                Her brother looks on, fists full of ash. 1967: to makethe body dance with sticks and stones to break                 alone. Within:                prison, rose finch feathers float through bars, what he can nottalk about. My grandfather sings to me in a ladybug-speckled coffin,                the color of good teeth.                   Above: my grandmother keepsheaps upon heaps of oil containers, poured                     and repurposed                in hunched Fanta plastic. This living can be so quiet sometimes,you can hear the lights                 humming. Moss slinks into my walls                and is painted over, white               to mint. I touchthe wall, these porous lives, this dense    understory. Today: I cut                a telescope                  in two to see everything inside, out:new.

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photo of Jane Wong

Jane Wong is the author of How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James, 2021) and Overpour (Action Books, 2016). A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships and residencies from Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room, the U.S. Fulbright Program, Artist Trust, the Fine Arts Work Center, Bread Loaf, Hedgebrook, Willapa Bay, the Jentel Foundation, Mineral School, and others. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University.

cover of How To Not Be Afraid of Everything

Farmington, Maine

"Jane Wong is a poet who hears the past breathing inside the present, inside the body, every shivering-alive sense. This immensely moving book is a lyrical reckoning with the colossal losses of modern Chinese history; these poems simultaneously inhabit contemporary immigrant life in the U.S. with uncompromising compassion. Instead of a linear document, Wong embraces collage, lacunae, and a kaleidoscopic questioning of what refuses both forgetting and easy remembering—what pulses beneath the amnesiac surface with shimmering fierceness."
—Chen Chen

"Jane Wong makes a family's immigrant legacy visceral in piercing, deft language that can't be dodged or forgotten once read. Formally diverse and inventive, taut lines serve us images and insights that aren't easily digested about the brutal blessings that come with split inheritances from the homeland and ‘the frontier.’ These hardy poems faithfully recount and recover no matter how taxing this may be. What a searing paean to the living and the ghosts that both haunt and make anything possible! The title? Wong knows. She knows."
—Kamilah Aisha Moon

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