In “The Night My Mother Left Me for America,” Clara Changxin Fang draws “a square house with a courtyard in the center, / a threshold / separating it from the street. The image of the “square house” occupies the poem between the first two tercets and the stanzas that follow, that unfold until the image of the house becomes the image of its undoing “at the end of a century where we lost everything.” Simply rendered as a box inside of a box, the image of the “square house” devastates amidst a beautiful and sorrowful poem.
I reference this image of the “square house” in “The Night My Mother Left Me for America” as a way of introducing an issue that unintentionally gathers mixed-media art (Lauren Haldeman, et al.) with poetry and prose of wonderfully indescribable form (e.g. Lee Sharkey, Landon Godfrey). And, though the form of many of the works contained herein are, in some way, indescribable, I feel strongly that none of them could be expressed in any other way. They broaden the scope of the possible; they are urgent and vital.
Toward the end of Clara Changxin Fang’s poem, the “square house” turns into language. The shape of the second to last stanza calls to mind the image we encountered earlier. It enumerates what “a house for us to live in” might be made of—books, sorrow, a dog—and, in so doing, creates a space for the speaker and reader to occupy. Both speaker and reader can enter the poem, this house made of words, through a gap in the penultimate line even though the line is about leaving or, perhaps, in spite of the line being about leaving.
It is through this gap in the penultimate line of “The Night My Mother Left Me for America,” through this convergence of image, language and experience, that I invite you to read the latest issue of Tupelo Quarterly.