IF CYGNUS WERE A REFUGEE
Jess X. Chen
Pour me another shot of whiskey, 
you said to your brother. And just 
like that, you’re in delirium 
& I follow. We just met last week, 
& you’re asking me to mark you 
permanently. Tattoo needle 
in hand, I poke two hundred 
holes into the skin below 
your bullet wound. The skin 
stings & burns & you smile. 
You talk about how you’ve been 
so close to dying, you’re no longer 
afraid of fire. I wipe each bead 
of blood away until seeds of black 
ink emerge from the membrane. 
Connect the dots & here is your 
brother. His wings protect you 
from the sun. You merge to become 
a four-winged swan. Perhaps 
at the end of this lifetime, a coroner 
will examine your body and discover 
this constellation: sibling cygnus 
soaring toward a heaven that knows 
no borders. Suddenly your skin 
has become the night sky. Suddenly 
your brother holds every pinprick of light 
in place.  
Jess X Chen is a multi-disciplinary artist/activist, filmmaker and poet. Her work exposes narratives of diasporic time travel, intimacy and collective protest by connecting the traumas between the queer and colored body and the body of the Earth. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, her poetry has appeared in The Offing, The Margins and Nepantla A Journal For Queer Poets of Color and her murals have appeared in the LA Times and on indoor and outdoor walls throughout the US. She is currently working on her first chapbook, Sing Me A Time Machine.


more by Jess X. Chen:
First Day of Spring 2016
Embroidery