See Distance

Livien Yin

Chloe N. Clark

There is something that breaks like skin
            the sensation is one at once
                        both sharp and forgettable
We don’t remember pain, they say
            because, if we did, it would
            compel us to stay inside
But what of the stories we tell of scars?
            We keep those memories
            until we have made them myths
Our bodies learn to use them
            like constellations pointing
            us in directions we never thought we’d forget



Fingerprints magnified look
like they are plats of complicated
land—the ownership of areas marked,

existing mostly to exist,
to show that we can imagine
borders—imagine that we can keep

out what we don’t want in
we all have them, the gates we place
ourselves behind—we think we have

the keys, but we never really did
we just have skin
have our gestures—they tangle

too, like skeins of yarn,
like the crossing of our
palm lines when we thread

our hands together



In space, we lose our ability
to see distance
it happens gradually

a loosening of the threads
between us

The Earth when viewed
from above is a whirl
of colors, of light

Space when viewed
from below is a mass
of darkness, of light

We rarely think enough
about the pleasures
of the stars

except when something
remarkable happens
and we’re reminded

how close everyone else
is to the clouds



We believe in doorways
and stitches of thread

Grandmothers have told us
Home is where the Heart is
and the same is true of Hope

But we know how easy it has always been

to pull the stitches out, the threads
will bruise our fingers, the needles
will prick our skin, our blood

is part of this cross-stitch
between doorways
between windows
between us and another
we and them
you and I

Keep our bones sharpened
to points, because it’s easier
to cut the threads between them

when we’re already bleeding



The mountain floods
it pools and shudders
it slides down its own sides

somewhere a street is overcome
somewhere windows look out
into I am sorry’s

I’m trying to help’s
I need to be forgiven’s

Come through into the light,
a friend said,
I can’t see you yet

Years later, when the stones
have reformed and the mountain
is almost something again,

people will say:
I think I remember that flood
I think we thought it was all there was



Where is the water from? and
where does it go to? These tunnels
you built between us
can only hold so much

Climb them, find the ladder
that will lead you into
the heart

of this city, these held together
fires we call streets

they stretch and flicker and flame

The body, too, is a vessel for valves
holding movement inside
so many thousands of actions

and from the surface, like
the water, it looks so serene



Let’s find our shapes
in the images made by someone else
the intertwining of our fingers
are the roots of trees
the curves of wings

we are the swallows
filling the rafters
of a barn, swooping
with the breeze

Find the shapes of others
in the images we make of ourselves
the scars on her skin
are the bones we magnify
in x-rays

we are the pillbug curled
into itself
over and over
until we don’t know where
it begins
only to end



Livien Yin

Livien Yin is a Chinese-American visual artist based in Oakland, California. She recently participated in an art and farming residency at Wormfarm Institute in Wisconsin, and is currently pursuing her MFA in Art Practice at Stanford University. View more work here.

Chloe N. Clark

Chloe N. Clark teaches multimodal composition and creative writing. Her work appears in Booth, Glass, Hobart, Uncanny, and more. She is the co-editor-in-chief of the literary magazine Cotton Xenomorph. For her thoughts on baking, basketball, and bats, find her on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes.