March 14, 2018KR OnlinePoetry

Visual Orders; Inwardly

Visual Orders




Harvest the eyes from the ocular cavities.
Complete in themselves:
a pair of globes with their own meridians.




What atrophies without the tending of a gaze? The visible object is constituted by sight. But where to spend one’s sight, a soft currency? To be profligate in taking in the outer world is to shortchange the interior one.

Though this assumes a clean separation, a zero-sum game.




To draw ink-lines across the lids
To dip into small pots of pigment
To brush two dozen times
To flush with water and tame with oil
To restrain and to spill in appropriate measure
To drink from the soft and silvery pane
To extract the root of the solitary so as to appear




Describe how the interior looks.
Cloak the eyes.
Close them, and seeing continues.




The seductions of seeing ensure there is that which remains unseen. Evading visibility is its own fortune. If to behold is to possess, to be looked upon is to be fixed in another’s sight, static and immutable.




She leans toward the mirror for self-study.

The body canted.

What gets left out?

Uneasy depths.

The fine, lithe needles of the mind.

Endless conversation with no listener.




Self-consciousness anticipates an excess of seeing. Its incessancy.

Lacan writes, “I see only from one point, but in my existence I am looked at from all sides.”




Gazed upon

I lose union with the larger surround

Broken from the trance of camouflage




The acquisitive, insatiable I.

A disembodied eye cannot be confined
to the skin and to what it holds captive.

Inversely, to be unseen against one’s will is to be powerless.

To be denied a reflection and to be locked out of a self.




What persists down the generations?
The shape of the eyeball, translated by genes.
Mine are long like my mother’s and her mother’s—who was all but blind.




Ancient optic theory dictates that the eye sends out rays, which touches the object of sight. When the visual ray returns to the eye, the image is impressed on the mind. To see, then, was tactile.

That we are touchable makes us seen.




Sight is bounded by the eyes,
making seeing a steady loss.

The presence of the unseen has more presence
than that which is exhausted by vision.

We inhabit this incoherence.




Look at how I perform for you

Look at how you perform for me

An eye for an eye
is how you and I
take on forms in the mind




Her gaze breaks each time
at the same place.

There is no reversing—
didn’t she know?

She has to go at it from the side.
She has to keep circling.




The lightest realizations arrive in restraint—
so the old masters tell us.

Not unlike the tug at the end of a line.



We have language for what is within reach
but not the mutable form behind it.

Or else, why write.



I’m sick of peering at the ego.
No, my ego’s tired of peering at me

It’s she who awakens me into being.

So it goes: the seer mistaken for the seen.


Jenny Xie
Jenny Xie is the author of Eye Level (Graywolf Press, 2018), selected by Juan Felipe Herrera as the winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, and Nowhere to Arrive (Northwestern University Press, 2017), recipient of the 2016 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize. Her poems appear in Kenyon Review Online, Poetry, American Poetry Review, New Republic, Tin House, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and support from Kundiman, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Poets & Writers.