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Issue 1.2

Fall 2021

Ching-In Chen


I wrote "breath is missing" in response to a prompt that George Abraham offered during the BIPOC Writing Party, a weekly Monday night gathering for BIPOC writers started by Faith Adiele and Serena W. Lin during the pandemic. Abraham asked us to write in a form based on Marwa Helal's poem "The Middle East Is Missing" in Invasive Species, where each stanza uses every letter in the alphabet except the letter which spells out the phrase. I have been writing about breathing in a time of disaster, our small and personal ones as well as the ones which have been grieved over publicly. This poem would not have been possible without this community which I am always looking for and finding in unexpected spaces.

breath is missing

-after Marwa Halal

inside me, I’ve pried my

kangaroo mouth open

cut teeth all queer xray

all zigzag and grid

not veering

to steal or wait

to queer a fresh hole

of juice



inside me, I’ve tied

each xenophobic

animal variant

all wooly and zoo

all jig and clean

as a quick bloody

flying whistle



within this body, I jam

toxic and high dolphin

             fluid a racoon

king      zip

your vanilla quack



inside me, sister

of high origin

flings xoxo

zing blue toe



inside me, a fluid

racks up spell

coughs error

in air     we

worry for our

names wrong

and deep across

our blue kind

jamming up

queens and jokers

saying ‘no xenophobes

here! no vicious zilches





inside me, a family

of prefixes

takes residence

stacking bowls

and forks against

perforations and

walls      always

repeating letters

arriving for justice

demanding quartz


Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer Chinese American hybrid writer, community organizer and teacher. They are author of The Heart's Traffic and recombinant (winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry) as well as the chapbooks to make black paper sing and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (Finalist for the Leslie Scalapino Award). Chen is also 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. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat and Imagining America and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Boston, Milwaukee, Houston and Seattle.They are currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics at the University of Washington Bothell.

Ching-In's Book Recommendations

George Abraham, Birthright

Marwa Helal, Invasive Species

Faith Adiele, The Nigerian-Nordic Girl's Guide to Lady Problems

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