Chinatown Diptych

By Jenny Xie


The face of Chinatown returns its color,
plucked from July's industrial steamer.

Dry the cup!
So we do.

Four noodle shops on East Broadway release their belches collectively.
They breed in me a hankering for family life.

Here, there's no logic to melons and spring onions exchanging hands.
No rhythm to men's briefs clothes-pinned to the fire escape.

Retirees beneath the Manhattan Bridge leak hearsay.

The woman in Apartment #18 on Bayard washes her feet in pot of boiled
water each evening before bedtime. But every handful of weeks she lapses.

I lean into the throat of summer.

Perched above these streets with whom I share verbs and adjectives.


Faces knotted, bangs softened with grease.
The East River pulls along a thread of sun.

While Sunday slides in. Again, in those plain trousers.

How the heat is driven off course.
How one can make out the clarified vowels of bridges.

Who’s keeping count of what’s given against what’s stolen?

There's nothing I can't trace back to my coarse immigrant blood.

Uncles tipple wine on the streets of Mott and Bayard.
Night shifts meet day shifts in passing.

Sweat seasons the body that labors.

And in each noodle shop, bowls dusted with salt.


*Selected for the 2021 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival*

*Selected for the 2023 Midwest Video Poetry Fest*

Directed by Jean Coleman.

Jenny Xie, “Chinatown Diptych” from Eye Level. Copyright © 2018 by Jenny Xie. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,