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Nancy Huang (黄洁)


Notes on Fear

Paranoia: not the fear of\ something, but

the fear\ that it will commit action.


There is a valley between what you know\ & what terrifies you.

You are scared of what lies at the bottom\ of things.


Places your hand can’t\ reach. Wherever liquid pools.

An example of an innate\ fear: blood that freezes inside


the person it lives in. When\ a throat haunts the body. How when

your mother hands\ you a knife & asks you to kill her


this is all because of blood. When she\ hurled it at the wall

it was because of skin. But then\ she asked you


to gut a fish & it became\ something different.

That was the first time\ you gave the demon a name.


An example of a learned\ fear: you are terrified of knives.

This fear is not\ genetic. An example of a


spontaneous fear: you didn’t\ know you were afraid

of the ocean until you\ stood in it. These are all


soft truths. These are all\ experimentations.

You tried to draw it out and\ make it physical.


How else\ do you beat it? How can you fight something

when you can’t see where\ its voice lives?


That night you recognized it. Remember how\ she looked when

you called its name. How it tugged\ at flesh. The same way your


face makes a smile\ happen. The same way your face

can mold\ a scream. Both are tricks of muscle.


Both are fears committing\ action. The only difference is

the latter\ carries a voice.






start transcription:


i wake up & the walls are just walls.

the knife is just a knife i use to cut fish.

the fish are just fish.


(this is a dream i’ve had before, paranoia sinking its teeth down)




i go to the market where the hydrangeas are in bloom.

winter flowers are my favorite, because hardship.

because something about fighting for it. i walk


through the aisles &


no part of me is a malfunction.

a function requires a purpose.

no part of me craves steel on skin, a dashboard battery, a flesh graph memory.


every flower is singing its cold tunes back to me. i buy a bouquet

& scatter it

on the sidewalk. the cars just exhaust. the air just breathable. the city just skyline.


it is not a backdrop to a movie set. every character is not automaton

playing a part they don’t believe

& even if they are, i know how to play along.


(this is a dream i’ve had before, a city spun of metal dolls)




this will be a story about fighting for it.

the ground trembles but i still walk it.

the walls become whispers but i still lean on them. i still


paint them yellow. drown them with

photos of faces, all smile.


(this is a dream i’ve had before)

(this is a dream i’ll always have)



every tragedy is the sacrament of broken things,




i never feel truly alone again.


this is not a malfunction.


outside, i look up & feel lucky.


end transcription.






start transcription:


i wake up & the walls are just walls.

Nancy grew up in the United States and in China. She won the 2016 Write Bloody Poetry Chapbook contest and an Andrew Julius Gutow Academy of American Poets Prize; she is also a 2015 YoungArts Finalist. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Bodega Magazine, TRACK//FOUR, Winter Tangerine Review, The Shade Journal, and others. She is a VONA and Tin House Fellow. Her debut poetry collection, Favorite Daughter (Write Bloody Publishing, 2017), is available for purchase here.

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