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.