Adam’s Apples / LITANY FOR TRANSIT / 12/21/12


poem for Adam’s Apples

the last known Chinese village eunuch
left his severed balls on the counter in the quake
of sixty-five—or, he was born without
them, lost when vultures picked at his mother’s
womb, pulling both off like boys teasing hair
ties, snapped playground pigtails falling. the last

known village eunuch—my great-uncle’s uncle,
built his arms into house bricks, mitered bone
to rock, to courtyard ponds and tanned shoulders,
to bathhouse tiles crumbled to dust—loved
lives standing emptied, fused into his bedroom
wall, watching the men run over each other
& left touching only himself. the last

village eunuch took the easy way out,
stuck with his mother through death, choked himself
to tears every summer, lost his license
coasting left on 101, drunk two beers
and passed flat-out at sixteen, and left to
pop each rib out his chest like jenga blocks
and made each a baby’s skeleton for somebody else.


On the street people smile at me
tight-lipped taut over putty strings they
pass origami shoulders through hinging bones & bite
easy skin into segmenting. My mother warned

of nothing & thought of it all. On the
subway the man in rainbows beside me shops
for handguns on his phone & on the plane
the straw-haired teacher reads me kindergarten

nursery rhymes for the deep state. Below me mother
diffuses back through her skin and inherits nothing.
Below me I see people in every corner of my eyes enough
to drive me home on church days as

night sets on another two lifetimes through kitchen
bay windows and I enter a body and it mine.
On good nights I search its structure
in terms of my loss, on bad ones I threaten to carve

them out myself and on your nights I can’t stop
worrying that I’m ruining my sleep
quality without even knowing. Years she timed
her breath gaps to mine through hotel room

telemarketing noise plain whiplashing in
snores & I repaid stepping glass rounded
oblong pinkie toes turned the color of color
penciling. The things of science: white noise &

substance abstinence & chamomile rituals
with veins calcified into septic tanks
perfuming songs for beginnings. On the train mother bakes her skin
leatherette-dried vegan jerky and even I scowl at my own forgiven

cruelty & even I beg through storming multiplicities, forgive,
these in hysteric exorcisms she teases out from tears in whispering. Forgive
the little pinched nerve above the eye that twitches & forgive
me, too, while you’re at it, could you?


on the day the world ends
you pray for a portal to open above the teacher’s head, shining
deep cosmic blue saying you weren’t wrong,
that you deserve better than the ones who say you deserve better
than the futures you already predict
in cold-handed silence, in the words you read
and will read again, and the blazes you saw
take over the wooden classrooms like a throat
swallowing flush to the sword, and
on the day the world is supposed to end it was too warm
& you shake awake at five before and see nothing
but air-conditioned sun, plastered concrete drying around
arms looping and you dreaded the rest to come.
and on the night before the day the world was to end
you set all alarms for eleven, and your mother said it’d be
alright because you’d die together, yet in dreams
coming sweat-soaked covered in prepubescent drugs and
lassoed wired nooses, you were the one holding the gun to her head.
and on the morning of the day you walked the last ten steps
watching nothing go wrong, every stray hair a dying moth
sent by a given-up god that you meant something
to someone who meant nothing to you, and then you gave up too,
and even if you hadn’t yet been
to all the places you wanted to die at,
there was something left alone in how
that could’ve been it.

J. Xiang is a queer Asian-American poet and student living in the California Bay Area. They spend their time getting lost everywhere, fixing vintage fountain pens, and occasionally writing. Their poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Up the Staircase Quarterly, Name and None, SOFTBLOW, and others.