Lantern Review | Issue 9.1

Chen Chen

The School of a Few or a Lot of My Favorite Things

My favorite season: horny during
a snowstorm. My favorite sad: sad while
watching ducks waddle about.
My favorite recent development: that ghosts prefer

to be called spooky babes.
Some of my favorite sunlights
include those that arrive in December
like gasps, like they’ve walked into a surprise

party, & they are the party, & it
is a ghost party.
Excuse me, a spooky babe party.
My favorite bedtime story: Once upon a time,

in a Chicago thrift store, I met the most stunning
purple blazer. My least favorite
any time story: Once upon a time, in a Boston area
laundromat, I remembered

middle school, all of it, & I couldn’t stop
hating my hair. When did I start
loving my hair? My eyes?
Have I started?

I still think of him, that boy from that most
pimply, least favorite time. The boy
who walked through each seventh-grade classroom
tall & Swedish & American

& boy. He smelled like the dictionary definition
of blond. He could’ve been the definition
of popular. But was a total nerd. His favorites obscure
elf novels & obscurer German thrillers

& me. We walked
side by side through those halls.
Still, he could sit by his backyard swimming pool
like he was born there. A son of suburbia.

A babe. A favorite
sunlight & not just mine. & not
really mine, the way I hungered for,
hungering into his blue eyes, wishing

at him after he emerged from the blue,
all dripping blond bangs, all
dire loud pang
in my chest. Middle school,

wasn’t that when I started to say I hate
math, stop the piano lessons, I’m not like the other
Asian kids, I’m not like
what they love?

Once upon a time, at dinner,
I told my mother to stop
making so much, why do you have to make
so much lu dou tang

& she said, I thought it was

your favorite.
In school I kept saying, I love writing,
which I did, which I do,
which wasn’t tall & Swedish & American

& American, but at least it wasn’t math, Mozart,
the math of Mozart.
Years later,
earlier today, I said,

I’m a poet
as though saying, Yes, really,
I’m a person.
Once upon a time,

after school, I played Mozart. I played.
I didn’t know I was a whole country’s favorite
way to say somewhere
not real.

Or maybe I did know, but
not enough to stop
moving my hands across the keys.
Would I love the piano

now? Could I play
my favorites? Would I see my hands’
movement, my hands
as sunlight?

Photo of Chen Chen Chen Chen’s second book of poetry, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, is forthcoming from BOA Editions next fall. His first book, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017), was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. He has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from Kundiman and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at Brandeis University as the Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence. • Photo by Margarita Corporan

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