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Genealogy

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This stream took a shorter course—
a thread of water that makes oasis

out of mud, in pooling,
does not aspire to lake. To river, leave

the forest, the clamorous wild.
I cannot. Wherever I am,

I am here, nonsensical, rhapsodic,
stock-still as the trees. Trickling

never floods, furrows its meager path
through the forest floor.

There will always be a root
too thirsty, moss that only swallows

and spreads. Primordial home, I am dying
from love of you. Were I tuber or quillwort,

the last layer of leaves that starts the dirt
or the meekest pond,

I would absorb everything.
I would drown. Water makes song

of erratic forms, and I hear the living
push back branches, wander off trail.


Jennifer Chang, “Genealogy” from The History of Anonymity. Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Chang. Reprinted by permission of The University of Georgia Press.
Source: The History of Anonymity (University of Georgia Press, 2008)
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Genealogy

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  • Poet and scholar Jennifer Chang was born in New Jersey. She is a Henry Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia, where she is a PhD candidate.
     
    Chang’s lyrical poems often explore the shifting boundaries between the outer world and the self. Chang’s debut poetry collection, The History of Anonymity (2008), was selected for the Virginia Quarterly Review’s Poetry Series and was a finalist for the Shenandoah/ Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers. In a review of The History of Anonymity for the Boston Review, critic Kristina Marie Darling observed, “While formally diverse, the collection is unified by an ongoing engagement with the natural world, with Chang often presenting forests, rivers, and vast seaside landscapes as loci for her speakers’ search for self-knowledge and authenticity.” Speaking to the “emotional landscapes” of myths and fairy tales that surface occasionally in her poems, Chang stated in a 2008 interview on Critical Mass...

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