poem index


Wendy Chen

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Wendy Chen. Photo credit: Wenrui Chen

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.” 

by this poet


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

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,

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