Snail Trail Press

Ching-In Chen

South in Hundreds


one hundred. 

                  one hundred seeds gone awry.                           [red morning.]               you wanted a flat piece of land so we
visited.                     don’t know how the ground received my lit white eyes.                          [clamshell gone break.]
                  I felt cool and dull underneath.


                                           ~ she gave me the other word for wild. ~
                                                       I thought too that there must be other ways leading to darkest color. all
universe full before you set each candle soft with mouth and war. only this small circle of containment
guaranteed from contaminant, new growth.
             ~~ no more stories from bending. in their tiny units, small certain houses, someone with cut
eyes pushes off. in different city, you breathe, grow back lichen, bring on flood.


                                   in the new days, we demand all visitors be named worship in incubator fire.


two hundred.

                      next black morning, risking from skin, you wanted a rising and flaking.
[still trace above ground, sliver I come up in forest.]                         our desire stayed the surface.
They had to allow movement, you said.
                                                  [pour out water, handmade cranked down for next dreamer.]                   Your
skin mark.             a flexible break unconcerned with storms.        [what does it feel like to soak wine past
border where everything eats?]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ~ no one looks to see a mismatched building, rigid with memory. in the old town,
we banish memorials frequently. ~                                                                                                                                                                          no sharp answers to questions no one asked, no neutral upsweep, no flame. if you swirl,
it’s lost on her anyway.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ~~ after a few times, i do arrive to tell you – these memories not stories.
watching facts straighten out. not the feeling precise, not strained passages of body.


                           we open gaps, test by tongue after Tuesday’s drying of the creek.


three hundred.

                                               Tough of your cheek, ignoring what was coming. I didn’t ask or knock.   didn’t
know what to say when you shut the door.            [chilling sour liquid, humming rib at cup’s ridge.]     Bitters
in the incinerator.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   ~ sometimes mobs. No corrections or adjustments needed to scatter. I don’t like
the sturdy fat grain or the fruit tree. ~

              she made it clear she doesn’t celebrate royalty, no respect for any kaleidoscope.

                                ~~ i don’t want together to bracket our thoughts without fluid. not to compress many-
thronged throat into thin sliver.  to be devoured is to clear windshield.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 all wanting to preserve half-life before expire.


four hundred.

a rat taken by surprise.             [my favorite mouth again.]    I never did learn how to make dark liquid or
to hate your brethren.               blockade of grains.     [when night flees, nothing enters tunnel, even bite-
size.]      You did learn what it took to melt your own shell, grow it back to ebony.


                                                             ~ you don’t come from where I grow. to trick, toss down the dull pennies,
the ugly bricks. nose full of last year’s rent. don’t celebrate without decompressing sugar. ~

               ~~ they don’t see many-hooded, wipe lenses from her neck. i wish i remembered to show up to
fill house.

                you alone said, let them be, long live pufferfish, leave feet planted.


five hundred. cages caked with light.                            [you search for me, knew counting sun would have kept
me.]          How to disappear with the scatter of a bulb. we did not form any bridge.           [I write a letter if I
make paper.]             A morning blue like grass. a disconnected skin from waiting tissue.                       [If I get
upright.]                   How to ask for the simplest thing. these ramp remains – you tried to shield me from the
sight.       [no houses in sight.]   Time to level the ground, unpeel light. no awestruck survivors.                                                        [growing up a sugar-creamed world nobody could afford.]  Sometimes I don’t wish for anything.                                      I want to see the whole world.                                                                                                                                                              [Staying meant skipping breakfast to preserve lovely mouthbite.]


                ~ don’t make space for me. I strip bare to bald ear and weak fist. I want the past with all its
anchors like a sunrise. ~

we’ve arrived late in the game. who is left but the hardiest soldiers weathered down and waiting past
your time. Nothing left but press the light-hearted valve and fly.

                erect temporary installation, empty bowls of choke, watery women turned to stone, all others
turned up on knees, no more questions.

                not much to eat but cardboard, we force down handfuls, one sip of sweetfire, one cram of less
than wood.


                you never do what crowd desires, whether marigold or nightlife, whether holy or honest.

Houston 5 (compiled)


“Remote, gentle attempts have occurred throughout history.” - Dao Strom


after one person become secure, their border pushed away. his hypothermic dreams bulled down any
living amphibian. no odors in the trees with mint and alder. with pickled anemone and horseradish, fish
swelled up lips, all ear-close and hum. full of fathers our voices bamboo shoot. ebony mammal pockets
starfish. in war, what’s natural appears concrete and deadly. the water celebrates to lose its irritants.
symphony carries carpet of death by skin. with your father, you cleaned each plate, see what dies
nameless to service a skin. in other ugly languages, older children impatient with the ritual asked to

Houston 10 (compiled)


“Who is worth my love, strength & rage?” - Mark Aguhar


been afraid three molecule wide. not welcome because carrier parasite. we’re both under separate
starlight and an only bed can’t hold these creatures. neighbor isn’t for lending cuticle and pressure and
box and box and box. haven’t left what we want behind. unwrap procured soap, wait to uprise and strap
down. passing hands through clouds, in furrows, touching all squeaking backs. not even authorized to
filter. no return once fabrication and assembly heaved into air. green songs lurching in head, attached
full of irritation and dust. each hour reveals minute unbuckling, city we no longer know unfolding to
say goodbye.

Houston 11 (compiled)


“Because I spend so much time now in a very professional, gender normative work environment, I have to remind myself that I love weird people, I am weird, I want to be weird, and being normal is truly horrifying.” - Dean Spade


to be stitch plastic not a window not to expect to ellipses i will be the hangup windup be cord no
smooth edits for thousand empty faces building bridge through rain no translation almost tumult from a
coughing black lung sky we’ve never seen so many swarms of many-legged plagues settling into strike
a stranger is resentful rule-breaker a line that i saw somewhere trying not to be so blunt object and
reportback like neat soldier with those queer little buttons of whales but even so still sounding very
much like my own voice stark and packed with humorless fist

Houston 12 (compiled)


“So it could happen: by writing about someone lost - or even just talking too much about them - you might be burying them for good.” -  Sigrid Nunez


our little family one hundred years ago through immigrant gap trading dress for lined box. i’ve learned
to linear, linking opening credits with logical conclusion, careful marks though half story eroded.
footsteps paving over good and dead. sun and fish staked in ground. why foolish lives in bus and dies,
crosses testy river, shoots heart already choked with rot. i’m thinking many-stranded thought praying
for lung to round bend. little one repeats he will not make it, feet fall off. stick through standing water,
mosquito path for missing girls on horseback. lurching through man sniffing ground for precious hours

Dream Region            Oracle


                a tumbleweed poem after Mequitta Ahuja


when I was a small white       berried           To belong,
             man a flock
             schoolboys hung me untouched
                                                to own I withstood


                       watched dirt                                          pocketed                     your work?
                       company pebbles rained                                   from sky          life and force,
            empty withered head                                                                left high
                                                            above ground roots

                                                                                                   make make make

shaking out my webbing
                                   without dry space                         mark for
                                              other a fruit

Jailed Tree


in the water             before the eye

                                             said brother

barbed wire tree                                 mine of bone

                         who flashed bland sea for bargain

can’t return a banished house or tiny mineral father

                                                 couldn’t lose a follow brother singing another wind tune


grows out of trench                             a trailing sea pried open grey city


                                                  smells like orphan and sweat                  a small muscle world

a kind of thick pouring                     chaining hush of voices circling up sky



                                                we mangled our blue room uniforms
I’ve always been here while you road train with wear.

          delicate greens pretended to be nobles                       still had my hidden
                                                                       beneath table wares


                                                                                                                To be honest, a line where I’ve never
gotten off. Sometimes wanted to hide in altars or rooms with no shade. Only foolish came to sing. Only
reckless sold skin.


                                                               to be nobles   we blued our green uniforms
delicated our wares                   still rode my skin     a line
                                 I’ve never gotten off hiding                 no shade to sing                 no reckless to wear


I’ve always been waiting for you by monument.
                                                                                    To be honest, I’ve never been in elephant or gears.
                   Back home, watered shades down and only wore this uniform on weekends down the street.
           we often hid our skins at monuments         to gear a song for shade          to alter a foolish line
no easy thing


                                               Always been rolling up table bits, crumbling into stew.
           When you chew, don’t forget I wasn’t in street singing. never been back-up girl. shimmed my way
                                                                                                      home from work and earned my own ride.


we didn’t forget to chew a street for stew
                                      fish king to market today     to be honest, I never thought you’d bend to
                        pressure. never thought you’d crankdown gears. Biting down each time, don’t forget
earning our own rides by crumbling

                                                 hidden before I saw shade.

                                                                                                                       to be honest, three women came out
                                  cart to sell lean vinaigrette. So much water


                                               thought you’d bend. Stood for six sun hours asking for bites before others
                                 finished selling. I will not go down empty
                                                                                 I will not go down empty
                                           even if I have to sell my own skin.





Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer Chinese American hybrid writer, community organizer and teacher. They are author of The Heart’s Traffic: a novel in poems; recombinant, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry; to make black paper sing and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (forthcoming). 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. Born of Chinese immigrants, they have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Callaloo, Can Serrat and Storyknife. A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston.