Four Poems

Poetry / Wendy Chin-Tanner

:: Parent ::

Not pomegranate, but 

spotted, so easily 
bruised, a child’s finger-

nail could pierce you through.


:: And Not Look Away (Brooklyn, 1985) ::

The pale green of the trees that stood in front
of the crumbling brownstone that June. Later, 

their leaves would darken in the leaden heat 
and the asphalt would soften and return 

to tar under the sun’s sorrowful gaze.
Mornings, the sidewalk would begin the day 

gray, wet from the super’s hose. By noon it 
would be baked so that the cement glittered, 

gleaming like shattered glass. The world seemed to
die each afternoon and nothing ever

happened and nothing ever moved, not air,
not cigarette smoke, not the water 

that held the china girl afloat in my 
room, black hair, silk robe, and cut sleeves flowing

elegantly, drowning, entombed beneath
a dusty plastic globe. At the kitchen 

table, the women sat saying the same 
things over and over so that their words

began to rhyme and sound like song. In dreams,
I held my head under until the surface 

grew still, and all I could do was make 
my eyes see and not blink, and not look away.


:: Portrait ::

Maddy draws me—

a head, 
a pair of boobs,

and beneath, a womb
where the egg,

a speck of black pen, lays.


:: Mercury in Virgo ::

night devours
sleep the hours

glut drenched time
sweat slick skin
sheet metal

shine I walk

warding off
terrors thought
crimes later

at the end
of a dream 
the stars in

a cloudless
sky form a

above a
skein of swans
honk and echo

fragments of
the past its
light can still

prick stinging
moving eyes


From the writer

:: Account ::

This cycle of poems, some of which are included in my forthcoming second poetry collection, Anyone Will Tell You, is preoccupied with an investigation of form and its subversion as an expression of the relationships between gender and identity, parent and child, self and other, the personal and the political, human beings and the environment, and the earthly and the cosmic. Within that investigation, I started out working mostly with blank verse couplets, but then, in conjunction with the birth of my second daughter, I began to write primarily on my iPhone’s Notes app and developed a new form consisting of three syllables per line and three lines per stanza, which I think of as trisyllabic triplets or 3x3s. Eschewing punctuation and most capitalizations, on a technical level, I discovered that 3x3s are highly fluid, as elisions work with and rely on the rhythm of the English language to expand the possibilities of meaning from line to line. I am also interested in how the exigencies of gender, parenting, the experience of the postpartum maternal body, and the interaction of technology with those conditions are borne out in the execution and expression of different formal traditions.


Wendy Chin-Tanner is the author of the poetry collections Turn (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Awards, and Anyone Will Tell You, (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019). She is a founding editor at Kin Poetry Journal and poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Some of her poems can be found at RHINO Poetry, Denver Quarterly, The Rumpus, Vinyl Poetry, The Collagist, North Dakota Quarterly, and The Mays Anthology of Oxford and Cambridge. A former academic specializing in sociology and cultural studies, Wendy was born and raised in NYC and educated at Cambridge University, UK. She is the mother of two daughters and the proud daughter of immigrants.