“Chinese Box” – “Clocklight”

Chinese Box

Not even one
thought is the same.
The light crushes itself
through the rum.
Winks like a stoplight,
red and undone.
You say, “there is an animal
in the room” and I wonder which.
Of us are you speaking?

If I have been my own
secret friend,
I am sorry.
If I have smudged
each moment
like a glass,
I am sorry.
I admit to folding
hours like paper
flowers, in the cold.

and mammalian
on the settee,
I resemble you.
Two droning satellites
for eyes,
I resemble you.
A breath that expires
like a ticket—
I know. I know.

Though not one word
is the same.
The night is a Chinese box,
lacquered in black
with traces of cranes.
It rushes over
our checked floor
like a minor life.
A voice the tenor
of violins.


The day flattens like a palm against my cheek,
and I break—into thirty-three dolls, less one.
Clocklight oppresses me, how I have lowered
a book against a flower, asking myself which
was the fairer one. Though now my eyes plum
beneath the ice I hold against them. I have always
traded one small pain for another, like a marble.
Again, on the sidewalk, in the velvet dress,
marveling at crossvine or red hesperaloe.
I mouth each name like a middle one, until the last,
my tongue fluttering, a prayer flag at half-mast.

— Stephanie Yue Duhem is writing out of Austin, TX. She can be found online @nameandnoun or at www.sydpoetry.com

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