summer was forever :: chen chen

Time dripped from the faucet like a magician’s botched trick.
I did not want to applaud it. I stood to one side & thought,
What it’s time for is a garden. Or a croissant factory. What kind
of work do I need to be doing? My parents said: Doctor,
married to lawyer.
The faucet said: Drip, drop,
your life sucks.
But sometimes no one said anything & I saw
him, the local paper boy on his route. His beanstalk frame
& fragile bicycle. & I knew: we would be so terribly
happy. Our work would be simple. Our kissing would rhyme
with cardiac arrest. Birds would overthrow the cathedral towers.
I would have a magician’s hair, full of sleeves & saws,
unashamed to tell the whole town our first date was
in a leaky faucet factory. How we fell in love during jumps
on his tragic uncle’s trampoline. We fell in love in midair.

elegy for my sadness :: chen chen

Maybe the centipede in the cellar
knows with its many disgusting legs
why I am sad. No one else does.
I want to be a sweetheart in every moment,
full of goats & xylophones, as charming
as a hill with a small village on it.
I want to be a village full of sweethearts,
as you are, every second of the day,
cooking me soups & drawing me pictures
& holding me, my inexplicable & elephant sadness,
with your infinite arms.
But isn’t it true, you are not
always why I am happy. & I promise
it is true, you are almost never why,
why I am sad. You are just
in the same room with me & my unsweet,
uncharming, completely
uninteresting sadness. I wish it could
unbelong itself from me, unstick
from my face. Who invented the word
“ennui”? A sad Frenchman?
A centipede? They should’ve never
been born. They should’ve seen me
in Paris, a sad teenage
exchange student. I was so sad
& so teenaged, one day my host sister
gripped my hand hard & even harder
said, SOIS HEUREUX.
BE HAPPY. & miraculously,
I wasn’t sad anymore.
All I felt was the desire to slap my host sister.
See, I was angry in Paris, which is clearly
not allowed. One can be sad in Paris (I was)
& one can be in love in Paris (I was not),
but angry? Angry in Paris?
Now, I am in love—with you!—though sometimes
terribly sad for no good reason, & not so much
angry as guilty when you say to me,
Don’t cry, don’t be sad, as if my sadness
could sink this room, this apartment, this
whole city not Paris. But does my sadness
always need to be your sadness?
I wish I could write an elegy for my sadness
because it has suddenly died. I wish I could mourn it
by kissing you again & again while neither of us
can stop laughing, a kind of kiss where we sometimes
miss the mouth altogether, a kind of kiss
I think every single dead person
in every part of the world must crave
with violent impossibility.

memoir of the present moment :: chen chen

it’s the middle of—the week? the street? the sentence,
please i need to borrow your basket because?

i’m looking for something. so ticklish with sound,
eerie with truth. like really good dance music.

like i’m in the middle of—a forest? a pancake? a pancake
burning in a forest while the forest remains calm?

perhaps i’m simply craving breakfast foods.
or what’s burning is me, the most oily of pronouns,

the life crisis that is not yet mid-, is always mid-,
is living. i’m the mid- of a foggy dialect,

garbled district. a primeval game
of telephone. i’m a muddle

trying to dial the cosmos. to sing out
another dizzying bit—of this.

when I grow up I want to be a list of further possibilities :: 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.

blue sweaters :: chen chen

for Sarah

Today we both wore blue sweaters.
Yours was like a memory of snow,
collected in a small wood bowl,

& presented at dusk to a choir
of young, soprano cats.
My sweater was more like

hopscotch, across a field
of ripe berries. Or perhaps,
in a past life, it was

the raincoat of an old man
who kept a love letter
in the left pocket, never sent,

till one day he drove his car
into the ocean. Words like kiss
& plum
glowed in the belly

of an unfamous fish.
How I wish I could give you
some of its smallest bones, press

them in pairs along the lines
in your hands, tell you why
you are unhappy.