CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Habit
Jennifer Chang


We are coldest at noon

O. is really suffering
and I do not believe
that she is suffering
fog ruins the moth
how could O. suffer
she is the song in my
mouth that won’t
escape another secret
that if told would scar
I do not believe I suffer
to hold a word in my
throat until I choke a
virus or a waning pause
every few days a winter
fly slow flutter along
the wall where it hides

After the solstice, I write C.

I do not remember today
my mouth sour taste
when I woke a dream of
pickled limes I swam along
a country larger than NJ
I knew a coastal bird there

Thawing from the ice-eaves

a day of rain the walker
paused under oak cover
but the tree bare did not
protect him not a walker
I’ve seen before but these
are not my woods I opened
the window after lunch a
warm rain we are one week
into thaw and far from
spring foolish walker rain
hanging on branches no
form free of other forms
free of I sentence my
self in storm too early to
bed too cold the kettle

Birch or fog, I’m colder

letter from C. she reaches
Green Mountain and it is
a behemoth of ice I ask
glacier to no answer she
received my letter a week
late slow post slowpoke
O. says of all outdoor
labor winter every day
we watch weather unmake
the new stream remains
of a blizzard narrow ditch
C. would call tributary her
mother would say brook
no creek yes a kinder name

Upon sighting the walker, I note

or we watch weather make
land ice on the road too
thick to melt yet traps a
season’s worth of brown
elm leaves we cannot step
an inch without looking
down each spread flat as
paper a trick on display
sun at 4 p.m. I write C.
false signals the weather
O. in cellar whistling

I marked the table with a name

patience I cannot recall
tea cold before the cake
sliced and plated patience

How we worry the letter, but say

about suffering O. will not
cease suffering F. left a
windsor chair behind with
wobbly legs his infidelity
but O. I say what can one
expect of old furniture no
word from C. or thank god
F. but O. does not love
silence so suffers its weight
on her heart our house is
made of fog by midnight
can I let it in the parlor I
ask O. I ask can we awake
open the window the balm
outside the wrens my heart
will you not cease awake

O. asks if winter wanes

frost at dawn last week’s
rain collected in the roof
gutter heavy eaves one
dollop became ice as it
dropped I believe at the
foot of yew we mistook
at first for crocus bud a
pale cotyledon no stem

Again, the question of the chair

web cornering the ceiling
vacant I hardly have words
for O. the old suffering a
habit of season C. writes
of the northern barometer
degrees she cannot chart
a line gone far I note the
wisp script what high branch
in a slow wind still there’s
the fly every day we are less
cold we wool-gather as F.
or some walker once said
muddy hems these are not
our woods but this is our
fog we wear its phantom
fabric O. sleeps I walk the
parlor den our cold kitchen
today I found a root what I
could not name what to say




Jennifer Chang is the author of The History of Anonymity. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, the New Republic, Poetry, A Public Space, and Salt Hill and her book reviews have appeared in Boston Review, the Believer, and theVirginia Quarterly Review. A doctoral candidate in English at the University of Virginia, she is writing a dissertation on race and pastoral modernism in American poetry and completing a second book of poems titled Some Say the Lark. More of her work can be found at the Poetry Foundation and the Poetry Society of America. She has been interviewed by Black Telephone and Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle.