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.





About the Author:

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.