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snow day

in your honor i’m having myself a snow day

in my snow day i’m losing myself

to a documentary about elephants’ matriarchy

in the company of elephant rituals i eat

kale & potato soup

i eat my soup till mostly, honestly i’m drinking it

in your honor i get loopy & not a little sleepy

in honor of how you don’t start your real day

till 1 pm, i nap

in honor of how you honor winter,

i get up to write by hand—the room’s only sounds

a black pen, white breath

to be honest all i can write is an astonishingly

aimless letter to my aunt

to tell the truth, despite the cold, it is snowing not

one flake

on this, my snowed-in day

in honor of your aches, i replay the doc, rewatch the elephants

in honor of your jubilations, i am the elephants’ fervent student

in horror at not knowing how much they love

each other, i return to my letter, try to make it

at least longer, making sure that once i spill

onto a second page i fill it

to the very bottom—

because what if an elephant comes or you

are hovering, would you think i’ve become

unloving, especially toward aunts

when i say your honor

i mean my grief

when i say snow day

i mean why, friend, can’t i really pretend

that you’re still here, when every day

you are


lust ode

i write for dead god & tulips still

breathing the morning in.

i pray for dead god & his stupid soul.

i pray to the stupidity of the earth still infinitely

more intelligent than i, every clump

of sweetness, every

muddy clatter of matter, every solid

strangeness & strange solidity

smelling good. i write to the hairy

scent of a mammal

right after sex. i sing so good to god’s

dead arms as they hold my vibrato

lusts. i luster

with the might of a whale

or perhaps another marine mammal

capable of such song & trust. i lust

for another sip of the smoothie i did not order

but my best friend wisely did.

by moonlight i lust

for the snail goop my bff applies goopily

to his face as the unskippable step

in his bedtime skincare routine.

in broad daylight i lust

after every page of the red, red

ren hang photobook you got me one birthday, purple

plum of a friend, thank you, for always being more

alive than god.

i lust for the wisdom of smoothies.

for plato has nothing on this philosophy

of platonic soulqueers taking giddy care.

for why isn’t everyone

talking about how soul & soil are just one

letter apart? it’s true,

i lust for my friendships,

the way they make me believe

in the soul & in the fact

that sunlight makes a sound,

one not unlike a ginormous bassoon, don’t you

hear it, too? yes,

i too lust to be less

apart from a man’s solid

song of calves & thighs. & pubes,

i lust for you, how lustlovingly i pick you from my teeth,

tongue—the sweaty

spitty lyricism of that.

i lust to double down on my divine thirst

that lusts for another poem, the next stupid tulip bursting hot holy

through every molecule of table, paper, pen, hand,

an ambassador

of the earth

who must be named lust ode

or lust song

with borrowed luster,

for example, the poet friend who said at dinner:

you keep saying supposed to, what you’re supposed

to do, but what do you want,

what is it that you want to do?

i want to do

it with my man all morning. i want to kindly

brush my teeth first. then

brush my teeth again

after—my arm, my hand

powered by postcoital zest, my soul

uncoiled by a sudden plenitude of z words

such as zirconium

& zirconias

& zinnia-

carrying friends i need to call up

right now

because i want to be

happy, i want to be happy, i want to be happy, iwanttobehappy

i want to not want to be happy but to just already be

as zingy as the earth’s morning breath


CHEN CHEN is the author of two award-winning books of poetry, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency (BOA Editions, 2022) and When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017). His work appears in many publications, including Poetry and three editions of The Best American Poetry. He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists.


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