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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
sponge.
              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 Cassie Mira.

Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009); recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017; winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry); and how to make black paper sing (speCt! Books, 2019). Chen is also the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011; AK Press 2016) and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009). They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, The Watering Hole, Can Serrat, and Imagining America, and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. Please visit their website.

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