“Birch” by Joanna Chen

This is what I wanted to say to you,
that I was looking for myself
all the time, that I no longer felt safe
in skin that was alternately too tight
or too loose, a covering that simply
did not fit anymore. But the problem


was not my pale British skin, it was
what bubbled and rose up under it,
my center lost under layers of other
people’s expectations of what I
should be. And when I found it,


this troubled center of mine, at 5am
in the chilly space between night and
light, the dawn birds calling to each other
through the jasmine, through the silver
birch, a thousand undiscovered stars
broke out of the dull sky and shone.







Joanna Chen is a poet and literary translator. Her poems, essays and translations have appeared in Poet Lore, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Cactus Heart, and The Bakery, among others. She recently appeared on Transatlantic Poetry and is guest poetry editor of The Ilanot Reviewwww.joannachen.com