Chen Chen

Nature Poem

The birds insist on pecking the wooded dark. The wooded dark

pecks back. It is time to show the universe what you are capable of,

says my horoscope, increasingly insistent this month. 

But what I am capable of is staring


at the salt accident on the coffee table & thinking,

What sad salt. I admire my horoscope

for its conviction. I envy its consistency. Every day. Every day,

there is a future to be aggressively vaguer about.


Earlier today, outside the cabin, the sudden deer were a supreme

headache of beauty. Don’t they know I am trying to be alone

& at peace? In theory I am alone & really I am hidden,

which is a fine temporary substitute for peace, except I still


have email, which is how I receive my horoscope, & even here

in the wooded dark I receive yet another email mistaking me

for another Chen. I add this to a folder, which also includes

emails sent to my address but addressed to Chang,


Chin, Cheung. Once, in a Starbucks, the cashier

was convinced I was Chad. Once, in a Starbucks, the cashier

did not quite finish the n on my Chen, & when my tall mocha was ready,

they called out for Cher. I preferred this by far, but began to think


the problem was Starbucks. Why can’t you see me? Why can’t I stop

needing you to see me? For someone who looks like you

to look at me, even as the coffee accident

is happening to my second favorite shirt?


In my wooded dark, I try insisting on a supremely tall,

never-lonely someone. But every kind of someone needs

someone else to insist with. I need. If not the you

I have memorized & recited & mistaken


for the universe—another you.    


“Nature Poem” is from When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017)