Poetry x Music VIDEO: “In the Air”

For the last two and a half months, Liane Halton and I have been working on a poetry x music album, our second, which we’re calling Here to Stay. It is inspired by this period we’re living through, with poems adapted from my six-part poem published on Rattle, “Coronavirus in China.” It is so very close, and we can’t wait to unveil it.

In the meantime, Nina Dillenz, who provided visuals for some of our performances of The Last Tribe on Earth, has one-upped herself and made a music video for one of our forthcoming tracks. It’s above, and I think it’s beautiful. Nina shot much of the footage at Ritan Park at a time when Beijing’s streets were still relatively empty. The city’s gathering spots weren’t entirely barren, though. As the poem suggests, the fewer people there are, the more we notice the ones who are there.

My cat Ovid — the one in this website’s header — makes a cameo.

The words:

IN THE AIR

Masks. Wearing them,
we were more aware
of the other.

Our eyes locked more often,
for longer, searching for provocation,
gauging interest

down to conjunctiva.
We experimented with sounds,
soughing and snuffling,

and remembered the lessons
our cats and dogs had taught:
ears back, head tilted. We were polite

to those we did not care for,
widening our expressions,
softening our brows

to say we understand the feeling.
But occasionally, next to a body
we leaned toward,

we grimaced with yearning,
with agony and despair that we could not
rip off these masks and laugh

at our poor nerves aflutter. Our gazes
settled on cloudshadow and withy,
old tiles on rooftops and dragon wings

rippling the pale blue. We saw the ways
we merge with the world, with the air,
taking into our lungs

the trees, the purslane in pavement, the rewards
for being who we are.           Magic, we said
to ourselves, forgetting what we were afraid of.

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