Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and out now from BOA Editions. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, The New York Times Magazine, Poem-a-Day, The Best American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has received fellowships and scholarships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, SAFTA, and the Saltonstall Foundation. He is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University. 

Lost Hat

Chen Chen


goes about his day. Melancholy

& neat. Like snow on the train tracks,

on the platform of shivering

astonished humans. He remembers

the one he used to go on, the human

who needed to get a haircut but kept

him, instead. Which is worse?

Needed for the usual human

reasons, or not needed, never snowed

upon? Lost hat, feral hat,

under the piss-colored moon.

He becomes midnight’s trashy

marginalia, eagerly read by a storm

of foolish eyes.

Quick Abecedarian of Influences on
My Writing

Chen Chen




Costco hotdogs.

Duality of Western thought.

Everyone I grew up with, except Freddy.


Greyhound buses.

Hermione Granger’s hair in the first Harry Potter movie.   

Inability to internalize success.

June, but not July. 

Ketchuppy fingers.

Lucky Star buses. “Lucky” by Britney. Lyrics,

misheard. Mom phoning her mom

nearly every Friday

over an ocean.

Phones. Oceans.


Remembering I owe

Syracuse University $40.

Terminator 2.

URLS that go on & on.

Very small toothpicks.

Wishing I were an

expert in particle physics.

Yearly percentages of everyday entropy.

Ziploc bags of frozen broccoli cheese soup.


duck duck goose

Chen Chen


the day kapowed! in our faces. its stink bomb

of theories. our unprepared nostrils.

a demony musk. a lemony mask


we could neither afford nor invent.

our phallogocentrism was acting up again.

maybe our miracle took off somewhere,

like a kindergarten, where it could play duck duck


goose to its full miraculous content.

we had not, after all, been watering it regularly.


we had, in fact, been half pepperoni,

all murderous. what is there to do now


but build a small memorial

for the entrepreneurially inept moon 

& wait for night to kindly drip upon us.


At Matt’s Thing, Saturday Night

Chen Chen


Guys, the way we danced was totally,

ugh, I can’t even, so flawlessly

EVERYTHING, maybe? Anyways I saw

that fugly guy from Eric’s thing again, can you

believe it? You know, the one who, ew,

like, hit on me? His hair, his hair you

guys, it was awful, like, take a fucking

bath, right? Wait. Are you all going

to Darren’s thing? Or is it Aaron’s thing?

The one with the strippers or the pies  

or oh my god you guys

I just looked at the back of my


What? No I’m not like, high. Where

do you, ugh, just. I mean, do you even care,

can you, please, if you see that guy again,

don’t let him anywhere near, like, my space,

my bubble, my fucking face?

He kept asking me if he could buy me

a drink, I was like, um, no, he was like,

let me buy you a drink, just one drink, I

was like, no, no that’s OK, he was like,

like, dancing with me, no, on me, he

put his stupid hands on me, I could feel his

idiot breath on my neck, you guys, where

were you, did you go to, like, fucking

Jupiter or something, like that time you told me

it’d be OK, it’d be hot if I let Carl do that

threesome thing he always wanted to do,

like, were you all high on Jupiter when you

told me that’d be fucking romantic, well I

told you it wasn’t, I told you the other guy

Carl picked was awful, he just stuck it

in, he didn’t wear a fucking condom, you

guys, Carl told you it was awesome, like

yeah, he came two, three times, guess who

didn’t, you guys, oh am I going on like,

forever again, oh you’re sick of hearing this,

are you, well remember how Carl didn’t wear

a condom either, the fuck-face, that’s like, why

we broke up, that’s like, why you shouldn’t talk

to Carl anymore, that’s like, a rule now, alright,

that’s like, are you even listening, guys?


Chen Chen



One Friday, Time went

belly up, & Space an impossible

moment later. The great Something


just a cavity gone too long unchecked.

Our sorry speck included. & the great

Nothing that remained was elated, drunk

on the swift & total un-happening.


Till eventually, this not-even-an-it

missed that just a bit of happening, of 

Something, the sweet Nonsense & the shock

of Somebody’s hair. & so, every inconceivable


now & again, a kind of Friday. A little

time for pizza & Forever

21, for Boy once again Meets World.