“If I should die tomorrow, please note that I will miss the particular” by Chen Chen

music of the word “callipygian,”
which means the having of well-shaped buttocks.
I will miss the particular cruelty

of tongue twisters in my first tongue:
“Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.”

I will miss the particularly high volume
YES of correctly completing this tongue twister,
even once. & the deadpan ditty

of the English translation: “Mr. Shi, the poet
from a stone den, likes to eat lions. He pledges
solemnly to eat ten lions. Regularly

he goes to the market to look at the lions.”
I will miss the roar of those lions,
hungering for freedom

while Mr. Shi hungers for them. & outside
the market, on a nearby street, the bright
ding-ding of a bicycle bell. & the messenger

singing, A telegram, a telegram
from overseas
 . . .
& the sound of the sea.

The sound the sea makes at night,
delivering its own telegrams—
a sort of sensual

moo. I will miss the particular quiet
of my body, your body, opening
a window to listen.

 

 

Chen Chen, “If I should die tomorrow, please note that I will miss the particular” from When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.  Copyright © 2017 by Chen Chen.  BOA Editions, Ltd., http://www.boaeditions.org.

“When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” by Chen Chen

To be a good
ex/current friend for R. To be one last

inspired way to get back at R. To be relationship
advice for L. To be advice

for my mother. To be a more comfortable
hospital bed for my mother. To be

no more hospital beds. To be, in my spare time,
America for my uncle, who wants to be China

for me. To be a country of trafficless roads
& a sports car for my aunt, who likes to go

fast. To be a cyclone
of laughter when my parents say

their new coworker is like that, they can tell
because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t,

can’t be one of them. To be the one
my parents raised me to be—

a season from the planet
of planet-sized storms.

To be a backpack of PB&J & every
thing I know, for my brothers, who are becoming

their own storms. To be, for me, nobody,
homebody, body in bed watching TV. To go 2D

& be a painting, an amateur’s hilltop & stars,
simple decoration for the new apartment

with you. To be close, J.,
to everything that is close to you—

blue blanket, red cup, green shoes
with pink laces.
To be the blue & the red.
The green, the hot pink.

 
 

Chen Chen, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” from When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.  Copyright © 2017 by Chen Chen.  BOA Editions, Ltd., http://www.boaeditions.org.

“Poplar Street” by Chen Chen

Oh. Sorry. Hello. Are you on your way to work, too?
I was just taken aback by how you also have a briefcase,

also small & brown. I was taken by how you seem, secretly,
to love everything. Are you my new coworker? Oh. I see. No.

Still, good to meet you. I’m trying out this thing where it’s good
to meet people. Maybe, beyond briefcases, we have some things

in common. I like jelly beans. I’m afraid of death. I’m afraid
of farting, even around people I love. Do you think your mother

loves you when you fart? Does your mother love you
all the time? Have you ever doubted?

I like that the street we’re on is named after a tree,
when there are none, poplar or otherwise. I wonder if a tree

has ever been named after a street, whether that worked out.
If I were a street, I hope I’d get a good name, not Main

or One-Way. One night I ran out of an apartment,
down North Pleasant Street — it was soft & neighborly

with pines & oaks, it felt too hopeful,
after what happened. After my mother’s love

became doubtful. After I told her I liked a boy & she wished
I had never been born. After she said she was afraid

of me, terrified I might infect my brothers
with my abnormality. Sometimes, parents & children

become the most common strangers. Eventually,
a street appears where they can meet again.

Or not. I’ve doubted my own love for my mother. I doubt.
Do I have to forgive in order to love? Or do I have to love

for forgiveness to even be possible? What do you think?
I’m trying out this thing where questions about love & forgiveness

are a form of work I’d rather not do alone. I’m trying to say,
Let’s put our briefcases on our heads, in the sudden rain,

& continue meeting as if we’ve just been given our names.

 

Chen Chen, via Poetry (June 2015).