dark image of lilac flowers

Dana Fang


When she trimmed the holly,
when she trellised each lilac,
her knuckles were starchy blue,
her skin luminescent as if
she had been torched with apricot
light. At last, for a handful
of hours each week,
she burnt, and my heart outbid
all else for her attention. To be
her shelf and shovel, her shear
and sled for just a little while; to ache
an ache that justified the rest
of her calculations—
is how her garden grew.


The garden is built like the guts of a palace               evergreen and glistening

the way any beautiful thing                                        glistens ripe with being

beautiful                                                                      The garden is

the inner sanctum of a dream     pink like peach flesh

lush with sewer cap lilies and

a little lake to litter with wishes                                 There is nothing

of the World in this world                                          On the other side

of the limestone wall is a pallet door

maybe the door to someone’s single courtyard, where a basket of shelled

peanuts sits in a pile of loose skin and someone

who has departed has

finally returned with sweets and toys

Now anyone can visit

After a fee       any sweaty sack          can sit and

maybe sheer proximity will make my dream reappear

as the skittish animal that animated

the dark           that no matter how little money I make

I will be happy


The most famous gardens in China are

south near the sea. I wonder

whose hands mixed the lime, held the

tree before swinging the axe, whose hands

touched the tiny parcels of stone. I think

it would have been people like my family,

we want more than we can afford, we want

to participate because we want

to know we are people who can still

see the arch of light at sunset despite

the scattered pink haze, a bit

of the sky we bite, we breathe.


I found the pamphlet online, through the
library. The photos inside the pamphlet
blur the bodies of gardeners
in the gardens, except for the photos
at the end, of the garden being assembled
for the Museum and even then
no names. No wonder why resurrections
go on forever in America. I wonder
if the language of gardens is the same
language I use to ask for money, to be
a little drunk in the cemetery,
the familiar language of mercy, of

My cousin purchased an audio tour
of The Humble Administrator’s Garden
when we were there. While we strolled
between bodies, along the pavilion
and into the shade, I noticed
that she did not sweat. Not
a single dark stain on her denim dress.
She stopped to fiddl
with her device, is yours broken too?
I don’t have any sound on mine and while
my little black box, strung around
my neck, sang to me, I knew the word
plum and none of the rest, so
I said yes.


There are too many ways that say

this is the right way                There is

always the half hour of the day

where I am overcome by the certainty           of time passing

and all the leaving bundled with it                 I think this summer is

the last summer

we will be back which means

I must remember                                             would give everything

to ensure that I remember

Why wait

for change when you could become the changing



Dana Fang, author photoDana Fang is a queer, nonbinary, Asian-American poet living in the Midwest. They are a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop. Dana Fang’s work has been published in phoebe, Black Warrior Review, Gigantic Sequins, and is forthcoming in Sonora Review.

Image credit: Antonina Bukowska on Unsplash

Read more from Cleaver Magazine’s Issue #27.

Cleaver Magazine