Fives logo – a stylised number five

with Chen Chen

The last thing that made you smile

Wearing my blue beanie cap while walking into the late November evening cool—with my boyfriend and our pug dog, Mr. Rupert Giles (yes, named after the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character). We live in Lubbock, Texas, which is not a particularly LGBTQ-friendly city, to put it gently. It’s a political act, every time my boyfriend and I hold hands in public. It’s an act of love and resistance and wonder. How amazing, that there are these breathing bodies who decide, Yes, who walk together: a boy, another boy, a dog named after a favorite librarian/fighter of demons.

I think of these closing lines from Sarah Gambito’s poem, ‘What I Saw’:

Orchard together. I saw
a family. A family like a farm. That decides.

Like a field. On its own.
Grazing and growing and grass.
I saw a family. I saw a family.

When Gambito’s speaker says it, or when my boyfriend says it—“family”—I believe it. I don’t always believe in some investment in “family,” especially when “family” depends on patriarchal and heteronormative structures. I also don’t like the idea that the acceptance of gay people should depend on how well gay people reiterate normative forms of “family,” i.e. that the “acceptable” or “respectable” way to be gay is to get married and have kids. The idea and the experience of “family” that I like is something much more open-ended and constantly evolving. “Grazing and growing and grass.” My loves and I define “family” by how we walk beside and with and how amazing is it that we are on earth at the same time?

A secret

Sometimes the only thing I love on this earth is my HP LaserJet color printer.

The last thing you wrote

A note to myself: to write the lyric is to write out of the body … into the body. Another note: I miss the trees I knew up north.

Your favourite city

New York City. Or Shanghai.

What you’d place in a time capsule

Honey. The humming sound of a dryer. The smell of my boyfriend’s hair, as captured by his pillow during sleep or reading. A pine needle. An oak leaf. The DVD boxset of all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (DVDs are so old school already!). A poem I once asked my father to write out in Chinese characters. An entire beaver lodge, sans beavers. The herbal remedy my auntie puts on the huge swollen mosquito bites I get, because that shit works. Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book because she’s the master of writing in the list form. A couple of freshly sharpened pencils plus a crisp stack of paper, in case whoever finds this time capsule finds it boring and wants to make something else.

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 forthcoming spring 2017 from BOA Editions, Ltd. Chen’s work has appeared in two chapbooks and in publications such as Poetry, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, Buzzfeed, and The Best American Poetry. He has received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation. Currently, he is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Texas Tech University.