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Issue 2.1

Winter 2022

Ching-In Chen


I wrote a series of poems which started with the phrase “inside me” in response to a prompt that Aliah Lavonne Tigh offered during a writing circle. I have been imagining what unusual, unlikely things could be housed inside me without me knowing, ever since I learned that my body was harboring growths unbeknownst to me. This series has been a way for me to witness my changing relationship to my body and what it harbors.   

Inside me, more family

of strange blood. What

I mean – living in house

            can black salt powder forgive

strained by accidents. Sun

always poking each elder

            can ground cumin find raw hand

by shoulder, passing tale

spit by spit. Each mouth

trouble exhaling. Stuck

on uptake, boiling again

             can turmeric stay short share

in fester of memory, in chorus

of left-behind engines.


             as in where we collected

and shelved      where our backs

held       how did we sanitize our breath


               you entered in purple

white wall in small, short house

              in forest stalk among trees

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

Aliah Lavonne Tigh, Weren’t We Natural Swimmers

Kazim Ali, Silver Road

Jennifer Perrine, Again

Krista Franklin, Under the Knife

Laura Da’, Instruments of the True Measure

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