chen chen

For Better or Worcester


Your soup is hot & your butt
hotter. Someone will burn his or her
or your tongue on both. Your fiscal year

is already full of fiscal days. You have all
the reasons for some of your behavior.
Your strength is waking up, never sure

if you are, in fact, a possum meeting
a pick-up truck. You have been told
you are brave. You have been told

you could model. You want to know
the truth, but you would settle for more
historical facts. Dates. Horses.

Mustaches. Your weakness is singing
the same two songs at karaoke.
Some nights, you sing a spirited

rendition of the alphabet
to a smelly pair of sneakers.
Some nights, you walk to the sea.

A seagull, flying with a bag of Cheetos,
spilling one, then another in the sand,
is how you want to live.

chen chen

Poème à la gloire des étincelles

                         —after Joan Miró

Hot sex in a rocking chair. Sad faces at a county fair.
Someone’s high school nemesis on the last plane
to Walla Walla, Washington. According to the Internet,

everyone is either a handsome fishmonger
or a talent agent for hilarious cats. Everyone is very
busy. Do you have a moment to spare?

I’d like to talk on the phone & tell you all the ways
in which you’ve harmed me. It won’t take more
than 10 minutes of your day. After that, you will be free

to buy new shoes or talk to anyone else. After that,
I will be free to buy basil & garlic or tell the dead fish
in the market, Today, 4 days before my birthday,

the sweater I’m wearing & the underwear I have on
match, in color, pattern, & beauty, without me
even doing it on purpose.



chen chen

November Horoscope

You will start coughing in a movie theatre
while watching the new James Bond.
The person you love will pass you cough drops,
one after another. You will whisper thank you,
every time. You will be shushed
by neighboring moviegoers, every time.
By the middle of the month, you will
blame most of your problems on the new James Bond.
By the end of the month, you will
have eaten twelve bowls of chicken noodle soup
& eighty-six cough drops.
You will try honey lemon as well as glacier mint,
but your favorite flavor will remain cool cherry.
You will read four books & three hundred
emails. You will let everyone know
how horoscopes are a complete waste of time
& human capacity, while finding yourself
completely unable to unsubscribe
from your daily digest.
You will continue to hold out hope
for an especially bad horoscope,
one that you will share with everyone
& everyone will think, What a funny,
interesting friend I have.

You will secretly wonder what your cold
means, what the universe is trying
to tell you. You will begin
a James Bond screenplay in which Bond
is finally dating Q & they finally get a pug dog.
You will plan to call your dentist, your bank,
your friend in Austin, your mother.
Your mother will call you.
You will be annoyed by her advice
but glad to hear her voice
—or will it be the other way around?
The person you love will occasionally eat
a cough drop when there is no candy around.
You will kiss, no tongue, a touch
of medicated chapstick, a hint of cool cherry.
You will kiss, just the smallest kiss,
to avoid getting the other sick,
& you will succeed at this
for most of the month.

As of 2016: Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and forthcoming spring 2017 from BOA Editions, Ltd. He has also authored two chapbooks and his poems have recently appeared in Indiana Review, Raleigh Review, Gulf Coast, The Normal School, and the anthology Political Punch. He is a Kundiman fellow, a Lambda Literary fellow, and a PhD student at Texas Tech University.

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