Sunday Apr 14

Chen-Poetry Chen Chen received his B.A. from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. He currently lives in Syracuse, NY where he is a University Fellow in Syracuse University’s creative writing program. He was a finalist for Sycamore Review’s 2012 Wabash Poetry Prize.

Kissing the Sphinx

You had a green beard, like moss.
I had a blue mouth, like a mailbox.
We walked hand-in-hand down the street, the dream.
You had a log cabin in which you directed new
sequels to Ghostbusters. I had a wooden podium
from which I delivered long-winded speeches
about the rain.
We joined forces for the greater good of the dream.
You sang songs to our cat who grew
to the size of the Empire State Building.
I wrote letters to our landlady, a cloud above
the Grand Canyon.
We built in the brain of a skyscraper a small one bedroom dream.
You became afraid of the giant bees. I became
afraid of the giant refrigerators. You worried about
my coughing up legal pads. I worried about your back,
full of grand pianos.
We fought it, we fought each other, we refused to leave the dream.
You lost your father to the northern war. I lost
my mother to the southern plague.
You buried him in the east. I spread her ashes
in the west.
We grew old, old as words, our minds slipping deeper, truer into dream.
You were my stalwart ruffian, my Tuxedo Mask,
my stubbly snoutfair. I was your wistful
hooligan, your Spider-Man, your stubborn
We kissed the Great Sphinx of Giza on its missing nose, for more dreams.


Snow on the power lines, snow
on the sign saying “bus stop,” snow
on his head as he waits, shivers
& waits, pressing a thermos of tea
to his face—right side,
left side.
Road, what gift can you give him
but more
of you?
On the last afternoon, four sunflowers
& she wanted him to have one.
She, not a lover nor a long time friend,
yet someone close, closer than anyone
in just a few months. & now,
four sunflowers she bought on a whim,
brought into her kitchen—
they stood in a fresh pitcher of water,
their great blond heads towering
over the rim. He had forgotten
how big they could get, how tall.
Go ahead, she said, take one with you.
But he couldn’t.
The way they stood there, golden,
gorgeous. Giving off fire.
He tries to read on the bus, but goes over
the same sentence five, six times.
He ends up watching someone else read—
someone slowly reading a book
as though feeling out Braille for the first time,
with little movements of the index finger
across the page, with the fingertip
tracing the words, touching
the meanings, then at last
turning the page, then the finger starting
up again, then turning another page,
then another… then the person
suddenly looking up, eyes unsure for a moment
which world this is—night has fallen, snow
keeps falling, the house is quiet, no, the bus—
& the reader reaches up,
presses a button
for light.