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About this poet

Wendy Chen received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA from Syracuse University. She is the author of Unearthings (Tavern Books, 2018). Chen was the inaugural winner of the 2014 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award for her poem “They Sail Across the Mirrored Sea.” About “They Sail Across the Mirrored Sea,” judge Alberto Ríos said: “This is poetry of genuine maturity, whose imagery and circumstance are constructed from patience, with a particularly demonstrable talent for turning the slowness of this story’s time into vibrant observation and compelling connection—in that way reaching from the depths of the poem out to us who are reading it.” 

No use to say

that I was born here
in a small red house 
on the Connecticut River. 

In the winter, we’d walk 
by its strip of Listerine 
blue ice,

knowing spring
would turn our prints 
to water,

and water 
to New England clay. 

No. I am not
American. 
For you, I am

from no country 
but the East, 
my body fragrant
as star anise.

From Unearthings (Tavern Books, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Wendy Chen. Used with the permission of the author.

From Unearthings (Tavern Books, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Wendy Chen. Used with the permission of the author.

Wendy Chen. Photo credit: Wenrui Chen

Wendy Chen

Wendy Chen received a BA from Wellesley College and an MFA from Syracuse University. She is the author of Unearthings (Tavern Books, 2018).

by this poet

poem

Ascending, wheeling
in a gyre, the roc

spreads his wings
ninety thousand li.
Bearing the blue sky,
he looks down, surveying
the little kingdoms of Man.

—from “Dialogue Between Birds” by Mao Zedong



1.

poem
Grandma wondered as I cut her hair
if I would mourn her when she died. 

On the television, a discordant chorus
of weeping girls
crowded around a white, 
maternal sheet.

She doesn’t believe in the afterlife,
only the proper rites.

Mother thinks we will be born again.
She does not wish to linger
in ceremonies,
poem

Weeks again of patient blues.

You folded down
into yourself.

You could bear no voice, 
no face
but your own.

Not even mine,
which you said you loved.

The old films you watched without sleep, 
you muted.

You looked from a distance
at figures on the screen