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)