world shrunk to the size of me

For an hour he follows me. I’d been sitting in a park, reading Bernadette Mayer. “My
theoretically recipient pussy (I take that back),” she says,
just as a man stops to ask what I’m doing.

When I do not answer, as I repeat to myself “I take that back,”
he offers me his phone number, take me to Mcdonald’s, take me home.
I take that back. I take my body back. I take back everything that ever made me.

He is still there.
I leave the park. I decide I want to like Bernadette Mayer because
she writes about the ordinary anxiety of never having enough money. She writes about

gentrification in the Lower East Side and her period. My stalker found me in Boston’s South
End, which reminds me of a Greenwich Village with wider
streets which in turn reminds me of how I cannot live anywhere without complaint.

Bernadette Mayer writes about the police but I don’t think she is
afraid of them. She writes about
watching her children play; you get the sense that her children are never quite hers.

He follows me through crosswalks and intersections,
red lights. I make the mistake of looking back. He is smiling. When the
body freezes, when the world is condensed to the space you desperately

maintain between yourself and your stalker, reality passes through a sieve that
refuses you. You are malfunctioning in an otherwise normal operation. I can’t get out!
Where is the exit? Won’t anyone help me?

Eventually I lose him in a supermarket with a back entrance. In an alleyway,
with my back turned to two men having a mid-afternoon smoke,
I wonder why I am wretched. If I am irrationally afraid of my body and the silhouette

of its shadow against your skin. I don’t need a body, much
less a sense of myself. As long as I survive the day, the day after, and every day that
came before.

[Does this make me a monster, consider her: one-eyed,
feminine monstrosity]

Could it be: perversity comes alive in the summertime. I catch
my breath with the realization of
how thoroughly my body has shed itself. I could loosen this sieve by force.

I do. Which is totally selfish. I won’t delay any longer the
will of my resisting body. Remove the panties. Remove the sleeve of the earth.
When I bear my nudity I feel less than. Stop.

I’m afraid of the direction this has taken. I am going.
No, I have to confront the body. The body who
calls itself mine, the body who arrives before me at parties, train stations, shops.

It is searching for an answer. I am not actually here. I too am
Looking. Yes, as Clarice Lispector writes: “…and the perversity of having a human body.”

embodiments shake me to the core. I want to forget this memory. I want:
to start over. This perversity barely clings on to my refusal, for the body was
promised too much.

At the beginning. All at once. Who is she? What does she do for a living?
She is there, waiting for me at the end of the day,
but she leaves neither a name nor a number. She observes the pensive

manner of the train’s blinking light. She endures the silent cruelty: the moment.
She walks into a crowd of commuters. Sometimes
it seems easier to call myself a failure. I conjure myself, and fail

spectacularly. I will enter the ether of an elsewhere, the feral reality of unwanted girls.
I am in need of a vessel. The ship: a ward. I need a field to hide in, to tether my loyalty to.
I am tired of shame, the cautious maneuver around and about you.




Catherine Chen is a poet and performer. Their work has appeared in EntropyAsian American Writers’ WorkshopMask MagazineNat. Brut, among others. Their chapbook Manifesto, or: Hysteria is forthcoming from Big Lucks. They’ve been awarded residencies and fellowships from Lambda Literary, Art Farm, and Splendid Mola.



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