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About this poet

Tina Chang was born in 1969 in Oklahoma to Chinese immigrants. She and her family moved to Queens, New York, a year later. Chang attended Binghamton University and received her MFA in poetry from Columbia University.

She is the author of Of Gods and Strangers (Four Way Books, 2011) and Half-Lit Houses (2004), which was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop.

Chang is the coeditor, with Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar, of Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry From the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008).

She has held residencies at MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Artist's Residency, Vermont Studio Center, Fundacion Valparaiso, Ragdale, Blue Mountain Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has also received awards from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, Poets & Writers, and the Van Lier Foundation.

Chang was elected Brooklyn poet laureate in 2010. She currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

Duality

Tina Chang, 1969
Perhaps I hold people to impossible ideals, 
I tell them, something is wrong with your 
personality, (you're a drinker, you're 
too dependent, or I think you have 
a mother/son fixation). This is usually 
followed by passionate lovemaking,
one good long and very well meaning 
embrace, and then I'm out the door.  

In daylight, I'll tip my sunglasses forward, 
buy a cup of tea and think of the good 
I've done for the world, how satisfying 
it feels to give a man something to contemplate. 
The heart is a whittled twig. No, that is not 
the right image, so I drop the heart in a pile 
of wood and light that massive text on fire.    

I walk the streets of Brooklyn looking 
at this storefront and that, buy a pair of shoes 
I can't afford, pumps from London, pointed 
at the tip and heartbreakingly high, hear 
my new heels clicking, crushing the legs 
of my shadow. The woman who wears 
these shoes will be a warrior, will not think 
about how wrong she is, how her calculations 
look like the face of a clock with hands 
ticking with each terrorizing minute. 

She will for an instant feel so much 
for the man, she left him lying in his bed 
softly weeping. He whispers something 
to himself  like bitch, witch, cold hearted 
______,  but he'll think back to the day 
at the promenade when there was no one there 
but the two of them, the entire city falling away 
into a thin film of yellow and then black, 

and how she squeezed his hand, kissed him 
on his wrist which bore a beautifully healed 
scar, he will love her between instances 
of cursing her name. She will have long 
fallen asleep in her own bed, a thin nude 
with shoes like stilts, shoes squeezing 
the blood out of her feet, and in her sleep 
she rises above a disappearing city, her head 
touching a remote heaven, though below her, 
closer to the ground, she feels an ache at the bottom.

Copyright © 2007 by Tina Chang. Appears courtesy of the author.

Copyright © 2007 by Tina Chang. Appears courtesy of the author.

Tina Chang

Tina Chang

Born in 1969, Tina Chang was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award from the Asian American Writers Workshop for her debut collection Half-Lit Houses.

by this poet

poem
_____

I was locked into a single seed, my future fathoming. 
I was matter underwater and a sheer hoping, 
when I latched to earth, a first withered bloom. 
A sonic wonder, I sang about the future.
I was master of the oxen pulling me toward dawn, 
an existence first in death, a state of stillness 
before
poem
I'm the one in the back of the bar, drinking cachaça, 
fingering the lip of the glass. Every dream has left 
me now as I wait for the next song:  Drag and drum. 
They'll be no humming in this room, only fragrance 
of sweat and fuel. To make the animal go. To make it 
Hungry.  After that there is Thirst. 

* 

I
poem
It is the smallest idea born in the interior will,

that has no fury nor ignorance,

no intruder but stranger, no scaffold of a plea,

no mote of the hungry, no pitchfork of instinct,

no ladder of pity, no carriage of lust,

no wavering foot on concrete, no parish of bees,

no mountains of coal, no limestone