What To Believe – poems – Jill Chan

What sleeping earth,
waking to the sound of morning,

has ever thought
about beginning? – {from} What to Believe, by Jill Chan

Just hours ago, I gathered my notes for my review of this book, What To Believe, by this person, Jill Chan. I’ve been an acolyte of her work since approximately 2004. Her restorative inquiries. Her flowering finalities. Her use of white space as glitter in the void. I remember receiving her first book, The Smell of Oranges, when I was at my poorest. How its scripture gave memory a place to miss. Recently, she graciously accepted my invitation to publish some poems of hers in volume first of {isacoustic*}. She wrote to me after submitting and suggested that I check out the poets Rogelio Guedea, Fisayo Adeyeye, and Maria Cinanni. I don’t know what to say. In this last hour, I’ve learned of Jill’s death. We’ve been a couple days, now, without her. Our losses race toward god. In her poem, Negatives, Jill says ‘Only adoration, / a fan of beauty, winds up alone / jealous of everything.’ Please, all- read her poems. Not because she is gone, but because reading is the language of the after. Read her poems, then be alone, then read them to a friend.

We wake to a further dream-

and sleep in its map,
our ears its mouth. – Jill Chan


What To Believe, Jill Chan (2017)

person Jill Chan, three poems

Jill Chan is the author of ten books including What To Believe: poems (2017). Her work has been published in Poetry New Zealand, Otoliths, Brief, Blue Fifth Review, The Tower Journal, and other magazines.


Everything becomes serious…

Everything becomes serious

when we are sick.

Life is a series of tiny misses.

Living has become difficult.

Not difficult like illness

but difficult like uncertainty,

like accident, its aftermath.

You are my uncertain hope.

Like morning, like dust.

Dust that wakes me.


“Dew Light”
after W.S. Merwin

I haven’t thought of the day.

I am only in it.

Today when everything

is present

even when it is not here.

I haven’t thought of dew,

how it settles majestically

on a thing that stays.


The Dark

I’ve become uncommonly afraid.

The littlest things rattle me.

I’m afraid of being left alone.

Where is the one who was brave?

Where does courage go?

Even when beauty stills me,

fear is the dark I hold.

Where does the night go

between the time we stay

and the hour we arrive?