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American Syntax

By Ching-In Chen

            The teacher straightbacked,
faced me off, her eyes.
            My face in the cleave of
her shoulder, my bones
sitting high my cheek.
             The word proper
arrives in the hall.  The order
of things, rolling
neat into pine drawers, dead-
clean. Squeezed juice of greedy
              Her teeth not match.
One chipped.  The corner lifted,
peeking a window, furtive.
              The other, pearl, round
and perfect, looming above my
arched head.  About to bite.

Added: Wednesday, July 2, 2014  /  Previously published in "So To Speak: a Feminist Literary Journal." Used with permission.
Ching-In Chen
Photo by Sarah Grant.

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen, 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 and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. 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 and Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. A poetry editor of the Texas Review, they teach creative writing at Sam Houston State University. For more information, please visit Chen's website.

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