A Poem by Alexander Chee

by Mark Bibbins, Editor


I don’t even know what to tell you
about the fog
or anything else for that matter
what did you think was coming
what did you think mattered what did you think
there was something we were all going to do right
something we made in pieces in the dark
we kept it secret we said it would be better that way
we didn’t even look
we forgot the way that was better
we forgot all the other ways too even all the shitty ones
but the pieces are there

what would it take for you to really give up on someone
I wrote this in my journal about 7 years ago
I give up on the journal more than I give up on other people
every few months I write an entry and I say ok every
day now an entry and
the journal is all like this guy again really
really the journal is always there for me though it is like me
but I suppose as these other people experience me
this one or that one I won’t give up on and who doesn’t know
how I wait the journal is not a record then but a mirror
a trap a friend a place it all goes if I can only get there
and maybe that is what this person thinks of me but
that would mean I am the mirror too

that of course would be awful

why even keep the journal you ask why does it matter
it matters because it is where you figure yourself out
why abandon the journal
because you can’t figure yourself out or you can’t
bear to figure yourself out or you can’t bear
to watch yourself figure yourself out
you are like the beat cop watching the robber
who always comes to that one house and he never quite gets in
the cop can’t bear to arrest him it all just seems too stupid
look he fell down again he’ll never rob that house
and of course you are also the robber and you are the house

why can’t you bear to figure yourself out
well that is really a good question
it would mean you are the pieces in the dark
you are the whole thing taken apart
and hidden so as to be safe and secret
you are the secret and the ways lost to the makers
and to figure yourself out would mean all the lights would come on
and you would know the thing you didn’t want to know
and the secret would be in danger again and all that could be made
could be made would be made

you are a message to yourself can you write this down sure
you are a message you left to yourself at some other time you will
remember if you could sit here long enough
you are a code and the thing hidden in the code and the code breaker
breaker breaker break break codebreaker break codebreaker break
break codebreaker break

just like that like some machine just like that
what is the secret is it is a loyalty to others
that never breaks machine of loyalty
no one believes in it they test it all the time all fools

what would it take for you to really give up on someone well
the someone would have to be you

Alexander Chee’s newest novel, The Queen of the Night, is forthcoming next year from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.