"Words become words only if they find an exit": Three poems by Jaewon Chang that will leave you wanting more

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"Words become words only if they find an exit": Three poems by Jaewon Chang that will leave you wanting more

Poetry by Jaewon Chang

How to be a Poet in Quarantine

Pull a magnolia from the walls
of a beaver hat, tracing its
silhouette to a half note in
Beethoven’s second symphony.
Listen to flowers dance, lone
motorcycles forming an oxbow,
women in white tunic reciting
a prayer, a hymn to filaments
folding with every breeze, until
night dissolves from wilted sepals.
Learn the names of the dead, perhaps
in abecedarian order because we all
exist under the same sky, and soon
the junction of letters will etch
against marble crafted headstone.


Gunshots in Manila

I was too innocent to know
the difference between war and
peace. I only knew a landscape
filled with loud sounds.

This time it’s Vicente street under
a cleft moon. Seven in the evening,
I wait for father to arrive home,
before clouds begin to coagulate.

Soon, we hear a familiar melody,
how someone’s knees would brush
the pavement right after, forming
a clastic band of grass and bones.

Outside my window, I can trace
father’s perfume, how his body
parching against the pavement
means he’s tired and sleepy.


Snapshot of Words

In the living room of a cabin where
walls bluff the existence of light,
harabeoji’s coat occupies a space
between niches. Dust sheds its skin
against the collar for over a year,
hoping the owner trails the thick
scent of dambae. Like how a scab
recalls the number of times an arm
licks the sidewalk. The best part
of leaving is the new land he finds
himself in. Words become words
only if they find an exit.


Jaewon Chang is a high school junior living in the Philippines. His works have been recognized by the Scholastics Art and Writing awards on a national level. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, Austin International Poetry Festival Youth Anthology, National Poetry Writing Month Anthology (2020), Ilanot Review, Passengers Journal, and elsewhere. During his free time, Jaewon enjoys traveling the city on foot.

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