Rita Chen

Every word I ever swallowed
bore its way into my flesh,
burrowed deep.
Curled into a tight, hard knot
and went to sleep for years.

At 3 A.M. they stir —
gnawing at the world-tree.
Leaving my bones riddled through
with hollows and aches,
me a cavity of myself, waiting
for the shatter.

The body knows when it’s hated,
when it’s loved. It knows what it forgets.

Cut them out?
As if I haven’t tried that.
You can’t cut out a scar
without leaving another scar.

What are you —
A surgeon? A bloodletter?
Then get me a lover
with a knife and a needle, any day.

I tried heat, then fire.
Tried the witch with her
stick and candle, tried
a poultice of rosemary and ash.
Tried to bury a doll with my face
at midnight under a stone.
Tried a song, as if
softness could touch it,
as if that’s what it takes.

“I love you,” you say. “You can tell me.”

I say ten words and I’m shaking.
Fifty and I’m a gash,
an ache, wracked by
cold sweat and sobs,
a noose is like a slip knot:
pull it just right, and
all the tangled parts of you
will come undone.

I’m always at the end of my rope,
waiting to kick out the chair.
How many strings does a marionette have?
I can be yours
if you cut me free
like the snap of a string pulled taut.

Even my eyes are
scarring over now,
my fingertips, my lips, all my holes
thick with cataract or keloid.
My mouth sewn shut,
cut open,
sewn shut.
Sewn shut
again, when I
picked the stitches out of my lips.

Just leave me like I am —
just leave.
I fear the big death,
and all the little ones.
I can’t stop shaking in your arms
and you promise
the fever will break.

I couldn’t speak so I
cut myself a new mouth
across my throat
and it said,
I can’t help thinking
that maybe
if I cried hard enough,
or kissed you, or something,
every clenched thing inside of me
would just let go.

With my heart in my mouth
and a dying sun
in the pit of my belly
I try for you,
choking on the wyrms,
the words.
My vision sometimes blackness,
sometimes stars.


Rita Chen is a disabled cyborg witch who spends her time worrying about the human condition. She lives somewhere on the autism spectrum with her fibromyalgia in Edmonton, Alberta. Her work has also appeared in Uncanny‘s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction. Find her on Twitter @expositionist.