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Ching-In Chen

Ching-In Chen is the author of recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017) and The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009). A Callaloo, Kundiman, and Lambda Fellow, they have been awarded residencies and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Norman Mailer Center, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, among others. An assistant professor at Sam Houston State University, they live in Houston, Texas.

By This Poet

4

A Natural History of My White Girl

after Mendi Obadike

When I was a white girl, I had no mother.

I drank whiskey, lived in a house with no walls.

Girls visited and marveled at my room to breathe.
When it was sunny, they let down their hair, drank fresh orange juice.

We drank all morning, didn’t go to class.
I knew which words to carry in the arsenal, which memory to disarm the most resilient bully.
Nobody bothered us or asked why we were missing.

I never doubted this was me. I knew how to pull up short, how to light my name under their skin.

There was no need for mirrors. No need to get free.

American Syntax

The teacher straightbacked,
faced me off, her eyes.
            My face in the cleave of
her shoulder, my bones
sitting high my cheek.
             The word proper
arrives in the hall.  The order
of things, rolling
neat into pine drawers, dead-
clean. Squeezed juice of greedy
sponge.
              Her teeth not match.
One chipped.  The corner lifted,
peeking a window, furtive.
              The other, pearl, round
and perfect, looming above my
arched head.  About to bite.

Self-Portrait, New City Replicant

To heat a sister           	          House a burn

           adjust the replica body
                      in the yesterday travel rain

no sister locks the door 	at the highest temperature
three hours still parked 	still comfortable to eat  	sugar by force

only because each house keeps a burn together
       	   drinks the page            	An unseasoned tree
chosen to go to the sea