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“How to Trap an Insect” and Other Poems

 

Maggie Wang

Art by Khairulddin Wahab

 
 

OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

I want (to tell you about) the flowers:
how they press (for sunlight against) the windowpanes or
reap (moonbeams) from a field (of air) on glassy nights
how they whisper as the tide rolls in (and out) but
what (they say) is incomprehensible
how they’ll sit (in the window boxes) and trip up (passersby) like (silent) sirens
how, underneath, their roots are (making records of) all our movements—

I want (to tuck) them between the (blank) pages of an (unprinted) atlas
until their petals blur (the borders of) the old countries
and decline (to make) new ones
because why should we (imposters) be the ones
to tell (future history) who belongs where—

I (want to) tell you (about) the flowers,
which (by some) illegible physics have woven (themselves into) flags
and hung (themselves in the central) squares in every capital
where summer (is winter and winter) is summer
but spring is still (spring) and autumn forgets (to show) its head
except in case of emergency—

I want to braid (their stems into) a tapestry
not for (the preservation of unpreservable) memory
but because the passersby (need something warm to) walk on
and the cats (need something soft to) sleep on
when May turns (the asphalt) cold
as rainwater searches (in vain) for (the mountains we razed to build) this city—

I want (to tell) you (about the flowers),
but the truth is (that I never saw them),
(because) my eyes have grown (tired) after (so long) looking
and the sun (has set outside,
I) would rather run (away) into the forest
and (never) come back (for the rest of time)—

 
 

OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR

I want (to tell you about) the flowers:
how they press (for sunlight against) the windowpanes or
reap (moonbeams) from a field (of air) on glassy nights
how they whisper as the tide rolls in (and out) but
what (they say) is incomprehensible
how they’ll sit (in the window boxes) and trip up (passersby) like (silent) sirens
how, underneath, their roots are (making records of) all our movements—

I want (to tuck) them between the (blank) pages of an (unprinted) atlas
until their petals blur (the borders of) the old countries
and decline (to make) new ones
because why should we (imposters) be the ones
to tell (future history) who belongs where—

I (want to) tell you (about) the flowers,
which (by some) illegible physics have woven (themselves into) flags
and hung (themselves in the central) squares in every capital
where summer (is winter and winter) is summer
but spring is still (spring) and autumn forgets (to show) its head
except in case of emergency—

I want to braid (their stems into) a tapestry
not for (the preservation of unpreservable) memory
but because the passersby (need something warm to) walk on
and the cats (need something soft to) sleep on
when May turns (the asphalt) cold
as rainwater searches (in vain) for (the mountains we razed to build) this city—

I want (to tell) you (about the flowers),
but the truth is (that I never saw them),
(because) my eyes have grown (tired) after (so long) looking
and the sun (has set outside,
I) would rather run (away) into the forest
and (never) come back (for the rest of time)—

 

Nocturne


The shadow of the Earth, which is half a clam shell tinted
in blue.
A trickle of water in the valley, where we know
thousands have panned for gold and found none.
The time
we saw an eclipse birthing itself against a copper sky.

A boulevard of uncharted languages stretching out for miles.

Songs of ghost toads strung between the cliffs, changing key
at the touch of a spider’s claws.
Maps on tortoise shells,
some whole and creeping up like moss, some empty
and fraying at the edges.
In these mountains, sight is reserved
for God, but the riverbed softens for those who fall.
Remember
that these ridges used to lie at the bottom of the sea, which means
corals might have sprouted into trees when exposed to sunlight.

A ladybug bites a hole into a mint leaf, then gets stuck inside.

Limestone melts against the pull of gravity.
A few birds
have caught their wings on ledges below the peaks, then
built their nests around the severed feathers.
Here is wonder;
here we learn that earthshine is made of wildflowers;
here I have left a sketchbook for a rabbit to press its body into;
here cicadas bury themselves in tree bark and still live
a hundred years.
A dinosaur hangs from the ceiling
of the Natural History Museum, but here, the fish plant lavender
in the ponds and the frogs chant hymns to the moon.

 
 

Nocturne


The shadow of the Earth, which is half a clam shell tinted
in blue.
A trickle of water in the valley, where we know
thousands have panned for gold and found none.
The time
we saw an eclipse birthing itself against a copper sky.

A boulevard of uncharted languages stretching out for miles.

Songs of ghost toads strung between the cliffs, changing key
at the touch of a spider’s claws.
Maps on tortoise shells,
some whole and creeping up like moss, some empty
and fraying at the edges.
In these mountains, sight is reserved
for God, but the riverbed softens for those who fall.
Remember
that these ridges used to lie at the bottom of the sea, which means
corals might have sprouted into trees when exposed to sunlight.

A ladybug bites a hole into a mint leaf, then gets stuck inside.

Limestone melts against the pull of gravity.
A few birds
have caught their wings on ledges below the peaks, then
built their nests around the severed feathers.
Here is wonder;
here we learn that earthshine is made of wildflowers;
here I have left a sketchbook for a rabbit to press its body into;
here cicadas bury themselves in tree bark and still live
a hundred years.
A dinosaur hangs from the ceiling
of the Natural History Museum, but here, the fish plant lavender
in the ponds and the frogs chant hymns to the moon.

 
 

How to Trap an Insect

Open a window, and wait for it to approach
in search of an exit. Once it has entered, close the window,
and its body will fall back against the screen.
Over time, the heat will pin its limbs to the sill
and meld its organs together, the hair on its back
stilling like grass after wind. Do this again and again,
and the sill will dot itself with insects,
the glow of their wings casting across the room
like fishing lines. After a while, you will have enough
to pick up and bury in the backyard soil,
where they will grow into flowers, but be careful
not to blow them into oblivion on the way,
and leave a couple to gather dust and rain
and press themselves into fossils. When this house
no longer stands, they will shine starlight through the ruins,
caught mid-step in an untaken photograph.

 


Maggie Wang

Maggie Wang studies at the University of Oxford. Her writing has appeared or will appear in Harvard Review, Poetry Wales, Versopolis Review, and elsewhere. She is a Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critic and a Barbican Young Poet.



Khairulddin Wahab

Khairulddin Wahab’s (b. 1990, Singapore) paintings weave narratives drawn from material culture, environmental history, and post-colonialism in Singapore and Southeast Asia. He graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from LASALLE College of the Arts (2014) and has exhibited in local and international exhibitions, including Biennale Jogja 2019, S.E.A. Focus, and State of Motion 2018. He was the winner of the 2018 UOB Painting of The Year award and recipient of the 2014 Winston Oh Travel Research Grant.

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