Meditations on How to Break up with my... - Nicholas Wong

What is it that you want to say? Strop, systole
or strumpet? Stolen is your speech by the sly air,

which does what it does even when health prevails.
Do they still mention health in the vow? In sickness & in

fact, you’re filling our room with cacophonies of coughing,
a viral symphony. You hold a blanket against your chest,

thinking perhaps about antihistamine & when anti-
bodies are loyal (or specific) in choosing what to be

against, why are you against monogamy? I’ve found you
a brand of chicken soup with alphabets floating like algae

during a bloom. With a spoon, you put an E after a W,
which I think is an M upside down. You insist,

swallow the word & get choked on it. Your itchy
throat says we should give each other a rest.




The current version of this poem is the second half of a first draft that I wrote after reading Adrienne Rich’s Tonight No Poetry Will Serve. I took a short line from one of her pieces and used it as a prompt to start mine. The original opening goes like this: “You sneeze, I quote a line from Adrienne Rich/ to bless you. It’s not new. This condition called flu.” But then the poem started to pick up its momentum half way through. I had to cut away the excess before it and revise the rest. There is no actual back story behind this poem, except that I have been in relationships I want to quit and when one is in such an unyielding partnership, every tiny thing can be a trigger for a breakup. The logic of being with someone, in fact, is not any different from that of writing poetry. To me, at least for now, it is all about diminishing the ‘ME’ world and letting ‘the other’ come in. Forego the preconception of what has to be willfully written and invite certain chaos to take over.





Nicholas Wong is the author of Cities of Sameness (Desperanto, 2012). His poems are forthcoming in 580 Split, American Letters & Commentary, Gargoyle, Harpur Palate, Interim, The Jabberwock Review, The Journal, Natural Bridge, Quiddity and upstreet. He is the recipient of Global Fellowship Award at ASU Desert Nights Rising Stars Writer’s Conference in 2012. He reads poetry for Drunken Boat and has recently been nominated for a Pushcart. Visit him at