Letter to P—12:27pm


The truth is I have very little to say. I’ve been trying to write to you for weeks and have almost
                nothing to say. The best
part of any correspondence is the future it runs along the side of. The best part

of any correspondence is how even the not-writing-back changes the texture

of everyday life. I wish

I had more to say to you. More than anything else I wish I had more to say to you. More than to
                anyone else, maybe, I feel like I don’t say enough to you. The week
before I left Tennessee I dropped my flower mug and the handle broke. Only the handle broke.
                Only the handle of it. Only the part of it

without any flowers. I wish I could say something about the mug and the things

that I love that come back. The thingness of them. The possibility that, though people don’t change
                when they’re loved, things do. The material world does.
Like gardens, growing in hallways, to make the hallways longer. Two days ago I was reading

a story by Bolaño and almost cried. A story about parents. And about the people you write to. And
                the daughter of the person you write to, years after the writing ends. The daughter

who passes by Girona on a trip and has no idea who you are. Who knows you only as a phone
                number on the balcony of her father’s handwriting. Someone to stand next to.

One day I’ll have to set my life in order. Every

piece of it. The pieces that have to do with my parents. How lonely and bored they are in Tennessee.
                The pieces that have to do with train-rides, relatives, xia xiang, North China. My grandfather
                in his Red Army hat in Harbin. I put

ice in this poem for him. Is it cold enough. I know

if I wait until something terrible happens
I will regret it. I will never recover. Spectrality and/
or inheritance. The way I have made the exact same mistakes as my parents and still not felt closer
                to them. The way I have only been able to write love poems and still hate the lyric. The way
                I learn Spanish all summer until, in Boston, someone new
is talking to me in Chinese and I’m inconsolable. I’m remembering
my parent’s window in Tennessee when I sat on the terrace at night, listening

to Björk. Hyperballad. Hyperballad. Hyperballad.

(12/12/20, for P)

Yongyu Chen is a poet based in Cambridge, Massachussetts, where they're currently studying for a Ph.D. in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard. Recent work has also appeared in Nashville Review and The White Review. They were born in Beijing and grew up in East Tennessee.