Two Poems with Process Notes by Ching-In Chen

November 5, 2018



Infinity Plus One

            after Terry Boyd



This day allotted red

sun. Control




a son borne

the shivers. Remember I replaced

the river a whole


strand of waterway. Overlap                                  Do you trust human error.

Nervous the line.

            Operations a texture

below our given circle

                                                                      a calm row of pattern

when we straightline

the audience. A small


function where we close


the fabric.

                                          I once shaped liquid path


Then golden river

into mammal.


Then blue sore

spreading from center

towards the crowgray rain.



But There Are Limits

            after Terry Boyd’s ‘But There Are Limits To Our Human Ability to Even Conceive Greatness’



Do you trust              allotted human error

                                                              a frayed

                             day with a nervous

                                                      line which makes a road


                                                     To fill a red sun          Controlling

                                                                              texture our given circle


do you trust                                       another

                                               for bridge


                     where we error the fabric       A son borne

                                                                                       the shivers



                     I replace this golden river

in a whole strand of waterways shaped into a mammal


                                      A calm row of pattern             a nervous line could

            provide                                      in times of calm, in times​

                                                                                                                       below blue

                       sore spreading center



To Even Conceive Infinity, There Are Limits (process notes)


            I work in Huntsville, Texas, for the second largest employer in the city; the largest employer, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I don’t know what it is about the threads (layers of wildness) which remind me of my daily life. Automation/repetitions and their relationship to constraint. What that small space could push me to access and re-visit. What kind of small and broken story the patterns might start to surface

                                                                                              What I mean is that I am and am not thinking about the prisons – a weird overlay, a daily dust I edge around. I meet it in my students – what they talk about, how they grew up, small disturbances – and I do not. I often hear about an execution in the aftermath and then drive back to Houston.

             I’m unsure of what is pattern, what is random, what is interruption. I don’t know any backstories.

                         Sometimes on approach, I don’t understand what I’m looking at. No one’s voice speaks through or to me. I wait and wait for results, for machines, for reactions.

                                                   What I mean is that I feed one line into another, use replacement as a way to unearth something beyond recognition, to bend and bend an abstraction towards a tension. A story made of machine.

            Often times it is me waiting for a pattern to arise, a creature out of the funk, saying – may you be happy, may you be safe. May your heart continue to hold a logic, may your access never waver.



Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017; winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry). Chen is also the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011; AK Press 2016) and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009). 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. Their work has appeared in The Best American Experimental Writing, The &NOW Awards 3: The Best Innovative Writing, and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics.  A community organizer, they have worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Milwaukee and Boston. A poetry editor of the Texas Review, they currently teach      creative writing at Sam Houston State University.



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