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Sara Eliza Johnson reads Feng Sun Chen's poem "The Living".

Sara Eliza Johnson:

POEM: The Living
BOOK: Butcher's Tree
AUTHOR: Feng Sun Chen
PUBLISHER: Black Ocean

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Hi my name is Sarah Eliza Johnson and I'm going to read a poem called "The Living" from the book Butcher's Tree by Feng Sun Chen.

I was browsing the books at AWP and when I came across this poem just sort of flipping through the book it just blindsided me and it kind of introduced me to a new author that I'd never heard of before and that was a really exciting moment. 

The Living

The trees outside St. Mary's are queued up like dried arteries
though it is the heart of March.  
Black ice on the ground.
The Midwest has the sort of personality
that makes me worship cold blank plains
like the face of someone I want love from, basic needs
tied up in a cloth sack, everything in it hard and dry
and clean.  Cleanliness is mistaken for liveliness.  Relief
for affection.  How do I get from here to there?  
What can I eat there?  Will someone be there? 
My true face is that of a potato.  I have many eyes, but see nothing.
I'm afraid of the dark and bury myself in my fears.
That is what the spring invites.  The first cardinal today
filled up the net of branches by the house.  Yes, its small body
filled up the whole net.  The changing temperature makes me porous.
Something else that is small and black perches on an ice block and caw
caw caws.  Cardinals leak from the body.  
I am afraid too much sight can kill me.  
There is no such thing as inner space.
I am completely full.  Maybe there are a few pockets between my kidneys
or the lobes in my upper midsection but it's tight.  Too much seeing
would rip something.  It happens all the time.  Soon I think
I must deflate.  I won't get there in time.  
Why does everything look the same?  Am I looking at a map
or a tree, or the hand of a dying man?  Don't go.  Don't go.  
I drink with my eyes.  When I try
to explain anything, some part of something, somebody dies.