Jill Chan

What Will You Tell Him?

It isn't easy to open up to another person in a world like this. He might think you do this everyday, that you have nothing worth showing.

That you repeat your life to others at the drop of a hat.

I'd probably tell him that I am nervous, that I bite my nails. I cry a lot about nothing.

That the worst kind of person to befriend is someone who asks me things before anything happens.

Before being asked, I'd like to have the right to observe. What types of things happen before they happen?

This is probably why most people don't trust me. Because I don't answer their questions. I look instead to where they're starting to doubt and silence their faith.

I look deep into their eyes and attempt to see them there in their searching.

I usually stop short of ever seeing them. Because they're not ready. They want to see themselves in my vision. You see, they're not interested in me but in what in them interests me.

It is all vanity. And I can't be caught in that, or else we'll never get out alive. We'll want the biggest, most obscene part of others reflecting in our personal mirrors. We'll want to compare endlessly until we win.

So much of the world is looking for us, we fail to be in it if only because we are afraid of what it will find.


What was it then if not beauty? What was it I saw in him? Could I see it again in the same way, at the same rate of confusion? He confused me like heavy artistry. Like rain when we run under it.

That day, I saw so much beauty, I wept. His hands worked so hard, I held them. I wanted, then more than wanted.

It was beautiful to be attached to tragedy. His hands were humane, conflicting the wish for subtlety.

I ran my fingers along his beard and said nothing as if it meant something.

Touch was beauty too.

My hands were wishing too.

Beauty never ends, it never will.

Not to mention his eyes. What did they see in me? Of course, beauty that never holds but just brushes by ineloquently.

With nothing beholden to anyone, we seek something somewhere.

The tide has turned and we are still one.

Someone has returned to beauty to see better, to ache better. Like wine that ages confine to the table.

To your hands, I say nothing.

To touch is worse than that.

To fulfill evermore our dreams.

To defend no one but us.

Beauty is beholden to no one.

It is free.

Go, look at yourself.


Jill Chan is the author of Phone Call and Other Prose Writings (2017), The Art of It: Three Novellas (2011), and five books of poetry: On Love: a poem sequence (2011); Early Work: Poems 2000-2007 (2011); These Hands Are Not Ours (ESAW, 2009), winner of the Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize; Becoming Someone Who Isn’t (ESAW, 2007); and The Smell of Oranges (ESAW, 2003). She is one of the poets featured in the New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive.
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