Elegy to Be Exhaled at Dusk - Chen Chen


I am an elegy to be exhaled at dusk. I am an elegy to be written on a late
October leaf. An elegy to be blown

from its tree by a late October wind. To be stomped on & through
by passersby old & young

& dead & unborn. To be crinkled & crushed into tiny brown-
orange pieces. & then

collected, painstakingly, no, painfully, piece by piece, & assembled like
a puzzle or collage or

Egyptian god, but always incomplete, always a few bits & limbs
missing. An elegy to be

misplaced, stuffed away in the attic’s memory, & only brought out again
once every occupant of the house has

ceased. Yes, I am an elegy properly architectured by ruin. An elegy that has
experienced crows & lake effect

snow, an elegy that has seen Ukrainian snow falling on the forehead
of Paul Celan, Paul Celan’s mother,

the German tongue, the tangled tongues of all your literary
& literal ancestors—but more

than that, an elegy that has felt light, the early morning light falling
on your lovely someone’s

loveable bare feet as he walks across the wood floor to sit by the window,
by the plants, with a cup of jasmine

& a book he will barely open but love to hold the weight of
in his lap. I am,

my friend, an elegy that has taken into account, into heart & October wind,
the weight of someone’s soft

hair-covered head in someone else’s warm, welcoming lap.




Chen Chen's work appears/is forthcoming in Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, [PANK], Fogged Clarity, Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, among other places. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Tent: Creative Writing, and the Saltonstall Foundation. He is a University Fellow in Syracuse University's MFA program and serves as Poetry Editor for Salt Hill.