Chen Chen

Elegy for My Sadness

Maybe the centipede in the cellar

knows with its many disgusting legs

why I am sad. No one else does.

I want to be a sweetheart in every moment,

full of goats & xylophones, as charming

as a hill with a small village on it.

I want to be a village full of sweethearts,

as you are, every second of the day,

cooking me soups & drawing me pictures

& holding me, my inexplicable & elephant sadness,

with your infinite arms.

But isn’t it true, you are not

always why I am happy. & I promise

it is true, you are almost never why,

why I am sad. You are just

in the same room with me & my unsweet,

uncharming, completely

uninteresting sadness. I wish it could

unbelong itself from me, unstick

from my face. Who invented the word

“ennui”? A sad Frenchman?

A centipede? They should’ve never

been born. They should’ve seen me

in Paris, a sad teenage

exchange student. I was so sad

& so teenaged, one day my host sister

gripped my hand hard & even harder


BE HAPPY. & miraculously,

I wasn’t sad anymore.

All I felt was the desire to slap my host sister.

See, I was angry in Paris, which is clearly

not allowed. One can be sad in Paris (I was)

& one can be in love in Paris (I was not),

but angry? Angry in Paris?

Now, I am in love—with you!—though sometimes

terribly sad for no good reason, & not so much

angry as guilty when you say to me,

Don’t cry, don’t be sad, as if my sadness

could sink this room, this apartment, this

whole city not Paris. But does my sadness

always need to be your sadness?

I wish I could write an elegy for my sadness

because it has suddenly died. I wish I could mourn it

by kissing you again & again while neither of us

can stop laughing, a kind of kiss where we sometimes

miss the mouth altogether, a kind of kiss

I think every single dead person

in every part of the world must crave

with violent impossibility.


“Elegy for My Sadness” is from When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017)