Cathy Linh Che



In the dream of a little life,

I held your hand in a new city—

lifted a balloon into the air,

chewed through food and sipped

on the tea in the blue apartment

where we would continue to fall

in love. Love is a cold river pulling

my legs forward. I wore a gown

to a ball and spied you across

the room with your glasses, shoulders,

and long, slim torso. The sun spreads

light across my face, and I breathe in

your human scent. Love is a basket

at my door saying, take a hard, crisp

apple as the fall bites back my ankles.

Or coronas my lips with color. Or, speaks

in sparks. You painted my nails Red Carpet

with gold flecked and summoned

the poison out, like a salve. The river, sun,

park, rain, the morning rising

in dark splashes, rinsed clean.




Family seemed penitentiary

& I wanted to be free.

I remembered the voice

echoing down the halls

and went running. Away from


Your face was a mirror

I couldn’t bear to see.

I risked losing myself

in the wilderness of a life

of another’s choosing.

The analogs broke down.

The spaces played like song.

The wildness I couldn’t

conquer. There I hid,

in my own body,

the gem of the self

lodged inside the self.


CATHY LINH CHE is the author of the poetry collection Split (Alice James Books, 2014), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies.


Photo credit: Jess X. Chen