The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer S. Cheng’s “Invocation: An Essay”

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook, “Invocation: An Essay,” pp. 27

Before words, things were formless and void. Darkness was hovering.

 

 

 

(She walks through the grocery store while pushing a cart.
She waits in line.
She pays the cashier.
She washes vegetables, turning each leaf over.
She closes the refrigerator, sits at a table.
She turns on the water in the bathtub.
She looks at the tiles, blinking through droplets.
She puts on a shirt, brushes her teeth.
She turns off the light.
She curls on the bed.
She waits for her eyes to adjust to the dark.)

 

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook Invocation: An Essay, available from New Michigan Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jennifer Cheng received her MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Iowa and her BA from Brown University. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, a Kundiman Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award, and most recently the Mid-American Review Fineline Prize. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Web Conjunctions, the Collagist, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Seneca Review, and Fifty-Fifty (an anthology of Hong Kong writing). She lives in San Francisco and can be found at jenniferscheng.com.

Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer S. Cheng’s “Invocation: An Essay”

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook, “Invocation: An Essay,” pp. 24-25.

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I think of small creatures beating softly in the darkness, of seahorses treading lightly on bright pebbles, wrapping their tails around blades of murky, shadowed grass.

 

Somewhere in the midnight, a childhood across the sea, a black ocean constellation. Sometimes children stop speaking because, lost in a stranger’s land, they are left with only their bodies. Without maps, they trace lines of light on the palms of their hands.

 

Tucked into the folds of growing stalks and stems, the only sound they hear is the silence of their bodies, turned from frozen glass.

This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook Invocation: An Essay, available from New Michigan Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jennifer Cheng received her MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Iowa and her BA from Brown University. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, a Kundiman Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award, and most recently the Mid-American Review Fineline Prize. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Web Conjunctions, the Collagist, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Seneca Review, and Fifty-Fifty (an anthology of Hong Kong writing). She lives in San Francisco and can be found at jenniferscheng.com.

Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer S. Cheng’s “Invocation: An Essay”

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook, “Invocation: An Essay,” pp. 15

 

Ghostly antics: Before women were unseen, they were unheard. They lived in silent rooms. Children who are repeatedly forgotten by those around them soon begin to slip. They find themselves in a place feeling like something of a foreigner. Illness: If you can’t understand the ways of the people around you, like subtle shifts in movement. If you never felt that familiarity, and you are overwhelmed by the largeness, the lightness of the bodies surrounding you. Shut spaces: If the cavernous silence extends to the turning of the earth, where all gods and winged creatures drop over the edge.

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook Invocation: An Essay, available from New Michigan Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jennifer Cheng received her MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Iowa and her BA from Brown University. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, a Kundiman Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award, and most recently the Mid-American Review Fineline Prize. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Web Conjunctions, the Collagist, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Seneca Review, and Fifty-Fifty (an anthology of Hong Kong writing). She lives in San Francisco and can be found at jenniferscheng.com.

Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer S. Cheng’s “Invocation: An Essay”

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook, “Invocation: An Essay,” pp. 12-13

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The Breadth of an Utterance:

  1. In a house crowded with other people, the night ends with her sitting on the floor in the shadow of a chair, eating slowly with a fork. It has to do with not knowing a way of being, of using language, a rhythm of body, which is to say it begins with uncertainty and ends with something darker.
  2. When you are a child you are instructed to speak with a six-inch voice. This is to control the projection of words—a barrier that encloses your sound.
  3. Eve, who was left with nothing to name and so wandered off alone into the moonless forest: wisps of lead-colored moss.
  4. In a pool that is five feet deep, the water covers my head and I tiptoe-drift in the lukewarm encircling me, sun refracting shapes. I open my mouth, exhaling, vibrating, watching my muted sounds float tensely to the surface in little off spring bubbles.

This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook Invocation: An Essay, available from New Michigan Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jennifer Cheng received her MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Iowa and her BA from Brown University. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, a Kundiman Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award, and most recently the Mid-American Review Fineline Prize. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Web Conjunctions, the Collagist, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Seneca Review, and Fifty-Fifty (an anthology of Hong Kong writing). She lives in San Francisco and can be found at jenniferscheng.com.

Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Jennifer S. Cheng’s “Inovcation: An Essay”

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This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook, “Invocation: An Essay,” pp. 4-7

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When I speak, bitter molasses drips from my tongue into still water basins.

A sound in water wants to find the surface, but depths of water fill and push down. It happened one day that the body tried to open its wings and found it could not make a noise.

 

The speech act runs parallel to the act of assertion, of proof. She aligns her feet under the table. Self-portrait entitled How to Part the Seas so the Sun Shines On It. Before moving to Iowa, she was often called Loud Small Girl.

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If it is true that the number of sentences coming out of my mouth is in direct relationship to my body in the world, then bones will become smaller, vacant. When I speak to the lady behind the counter or the person sitting next to me, I can never predict how my voice will sound: smooth, abrupt, flat, brittle, lingering. Now, it comes in tiny microscopic knots or large empty spaces, often then followed by Did you say something? or a continued conversation elsewhere around me. So that afterward in the darkness as I am riding home, I am looking out the window, thinking of octopi on the ocean floor and what they see at night.

This selection is from Jennifer S. Cheng’s chapbook Invocation: An Essay, available from New Michigan Press. Purchase your copy here!

Jennifer Cheng received her MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Iowa and her BA from Brown University. She is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship, a Kundiman Fellowship, the Academy of American Poets Harold Taylor Award, and most recently the Mid-American Review Fineline Prize. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Web Conjunctions, the Collagist, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Seneca Review, and Fifty-Fifty (an anthology of Hong Kong writing). She lives in San Francisco and can be found at jenniferscheng.com.

Meagan Cass is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she teaches courses in creative writing, independent publishing, and composition, curates the Shelterbelt reading series, and advises the campus literary journal, the Alchemist Review. Her fiction has appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, Hobart Web, PANK, and Puerto del Sol, among other journals. Magic Helicopter Press will publish her first fiction chapbook, Range of Motion, in January 2014. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana Lafayette and an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College.