Naturalism, by Wendy Xu
Brooklyn Arts Press, 2015; 42 pp
Reviewed by Annie Won
Arrows are in. You can get them on your walls. They’re everywhere.
Why are they everywhere? Maybe they suggest direction. In this day and age, maybe that's what we need. In Naturalism, by Wendy Xu, there is an I and a you. They're like chess pieces, objects in the game, doing "whatever the vectors pushed off into... / still kneeling in front of the television / push a finger inside" ("Recovery"). Like vectors, we start and trail off with no end. Each a discrete object, alone. "One human apartment, one / comes to a loud boil in the morning," ("Some People") writes Xu. A human is much like an apartment and sometimes comes to a loud boil in the morning. In this rather busy urban collection of objects, we are separately contained within ourselves. The scene is busy with objects and yet, "I liked it when the sullen man said / "Just leave your name" ("Some People").
We are nameless and we like it that way.
The condition of being lies on a hairpin. Writes Xu, "against silence a cracking of hands that / there in windows / framed us. I perform well / my surface for you" ("The Window Rehearses"). Motions portray how we feel; "our sleep then, the balcony, driving both / hands into the space I / am allowed" ("The Window Rehearses"). We wonder, "how not to die and bury, when is a resting / all together now to music" ("Theme Song"). As the work progresses to "Phrasis," disparate thoughts are contained within spaced, lineated sections. The physical space creates separation. This thought alone. This thought alone. "Not wanting to procedure the flesh and blood morning, one leaves / behind the idea of the morning." Objects converse with the people, themselves objects; "A gentleman paints the inner life and plunges hands repeatedly / into the violence of history, meets nobody in the abstract middle." And in not meeting, we lack ground. Our containers do not fit us. We keep reaching. "I lived with you inside a colloquial century, hardly possible to be still / adjourned into brighter meaning" ("Phrasis").
Resonant in the work is the theme of displacement, of grasping, of the mystery of parallel lines, much like two beings in space. The mystery of two people. In space. Science states that they will never meet, but as John Wieners says in the epigraph, "but that two parallels do cross." The push-pull nature of relationship. Name your own truth. If you feel it, make it so.
And the I, where is the I?
I set out early and bright wanting nothing
You get nothing
Nobody can judge you, nobody shall. (31)