National Poetry Day 26: Ching-In Chen


Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart’s Traffic and recombinant and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. A Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole and Callaloo Fellow, they are part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. Their work has appeared in The Best American Experimental Writing and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. They serve as the Texas Review’s Poetry Editor and on Thinking Its Presence: Race, Advocacy, Solidarity in the Arts’s Executive Board.


Dear O

I was born, they said, a boy
into a heritage of paper

If a fire is placed in a crumbling wall
it leads me to you, separated from the screen

I am not here often

The one who arrived, I lost him in the sea

I was born
so much missing your eyesight
blooming without birds

My body unfolds
and the sound it sings in line

I lost you in the sea.
An ideal neighbor a stone buried below my mother’s whitegrain building

A blue vat dye, burning stones to throw

All my unborn reckless as a lamp
strung as a light
broke a path

There was a boy who was not me
because I was a bird singing double-
hearted in the floating line by the sea

soft-throated to face down
the audience



You once bird grow thick, escape a star gash. Hard crawl duration transform him-bird to hare, storyteller laughs. After s/he left home lonesome, didn’t believe you had magnitude to latch lined nest,  catch double flight from ice.

We should have known you wouldn’t lose that breakneck fight. Ice too quick to flee, to warn next crimson seed to burr.

Each spring, storyteller instructs us to gather in your return. Flap dark drawl on map, lose body power electric fight. We nurse you back to dust for hunt.


Author photograph © Cassie Mira Nicholson.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →