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About this poet

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), which won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was long-listed for the National Book Award. He is a PhD student at Texas Tech University and lives in Rochester, New York. 

The School of Night & Hyphens

The sky tonight, so without aliens. The woods, very lacking
in witches. But the people, as usual, replete

with people. & so you, with your headset, sit
in the home office across the hall, stuck in a hell

of strangers crying, computers dying, the new
father’s dropped-in-toilet baby

photos, the old Canadian, her grandson Gregory,
all-grown-up-now Greg, who gave her this phone

but won’t call her. You call her
wonderful. You encourage her to tell you what’s wrong

with her device. You with your good-at-your-job
good-looking-ness, I bet even over the phone

it’s visible. I bet all the Canadian grandmas
want you, but hey, you’re with me. Hey, take off

that headset. Steal away from your post. Cross
the hall, you sings-the-chorus-too-soon, you

makes-a-killer-veggie-taco, you
played-tennis-in-college-build, you Jeffrey, you

Jeff-ship full of stars, cauldron full of you,
come teach me a little bit

of nothing, in the dark
abundant hours.

Copyright © 2017 Chen Chen. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.

 

Copyright © 2017 Chen Chen. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.

 

Chen Chen

Chen Chen

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017).

by this poet

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In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time 
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay. 

In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend 
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time, 

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him 

about him. You
2
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I like to say we left at first light
        with Chairman Mao himself chasing us in a police car,
my father fighting him off with firecrackers,
        even though Mao was already over a decade
dead, & my mother says all my father did
        during the Cultural Revolution was teach

2
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from your grandmother’s coat. You worry with your thumb the stranger’s page. Aging spine of the black sky, night-burps of the sleeping computer. Don’t listen to the judgment of your scraped knees. Night anchors in your belly button, your pubic hair. Stars snore safely, for years. Your smile in the early dark is a