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3 poems

by Claire Shang

Claire Shang is a New York high school senior. She is a graduate of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop with work recognized by the UK's Poetry Society, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and Smith College. Besides writing, she also runs and plays the piano, but not all at the same time (yet.)

When I Am With You I Am

no-body / this body up / between us

like a weighted thing / winnowing itself

from existence / like if I climbed

into a balloon and it did not float /

but only stretched / and I kneeled in it

so the latex would accommodate

myself keeled / and keep me

snug in my own breath / like one time

I scaled a church tower /

and could not make my way out before noon /

the hour pooling around me / ringing

heavy as if I were the bell /

they would have seen fingers pressed

on the thinning surface / visible and

still / you would not have wished it

to pop / you would not have wished for me /

or anything at all.


The day before I left

there was a power outage

that dragged in dusk:

          20 blocks of city unsettling

          & shifting into dark.

They shuttled helicopters downtown

as if to ration out light.

          On a plane the next day

          I looked down, tried

          to find those blocks & imposed

a sudden change, saw a hundred million

windows below frisking into fire, igniting

as they sent me off.

          Sometimes you think the city does things for you

          & it does not. But at least

my doorman Julian knows my name.

At least the power came back, unfailing.

At least we still have light to give,

& take away.

On Lorde's "400 Lux"

In summer I resolve to anthemize everything that passes through me. I bet on a song as if it will sing to my body and lullaby it into permanence. When we read love poems I swap the “you”s with you and my mouth, overwhelmed, begins to swallow all pronouns. If I had enough memories I would insert you into every poem. This you know. Because I have no poem I click repeat and imagine us into the empty spaces of the song. There we are muted in the fuzz of the chorus, swept under the swell of declaration. A song is a message, and what I want to say is: I can love and have felt it, cradled it, kept it safe like you have. And: I am scared I will never write a love poem. Or: I will place us into a dystopia in which we feed on love like it is prey, like it is tangible enough to consume. I think this will be good practice so I can learn how to survive off love and in it. This song is slow and drawn out as if something has gone wrong. This I know: how to stretch out emotion and make it pliable. I watch this song creak in my hands, made unnatural with repetition. I bend it, again and again, and it does not break (& I like you / & I like you / & I like you)

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