Quintessence: the Quotidian

Chen Chen

         The best part of waking up isfalling, when one can, right back to sleep. My favorite part         of drinking tea is forgettingI ever made it. The worst part of being awake is suddenly missing         every me I used to be. Though that         can also happen in dreams.Duh. What can’t? Boring people to inhumane death with a lengthy         recap of a dreamat an otherwise epic picnic? Has anyone ever been literally bored         to death? Gored, yes,         but bored? I ponder this while remakingmy Irish Breakfast tea & missing my Scottish Breakfast, which ran out         the other day, though I’m not sure howexactly the two differ, & usually in my American         restaurants, I order English         Breakfast, as that’s all they have,which seems wrong & thoroughly imperialist         maybe. I don’t know much.I know: in a dream, the tea could stay forever the exact right         drinking temperature & I never want         that. I want the debauchedjoy of everyday bumbles & flops & the effort to be once more         more of my me’sthough of course some I’ve outgrown & oops         the tea’s cold again & oh         let’s just whack itin the microwave this time & what do I know except that         I miss you.Though you’re only in the other room,         working. Answering         customers’ always uncalm,sometimes kooky calls. Chugging your iced (no whip) mochas.         In a dream, you wouldn’t,shouldn’t be working, so I wouldn’t, couldn’t get to miss you,         not in this sweetly         boring way. Oryou would, in the dream, be working, but on Jupiter,         performing very importantextremely scientific research on the gas giant. Gassy research         that will giantly aid humanity, no,         every last earthling,amazing! But darling, my dearheartling. My         myling, it wouldgore me to miss you         that much.

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Paula Champagne

Chen Chen’s second book, Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency, is a best book of 2022 according to the Boston Globe, Electric Lit, NPR, and others. It has also been named a 2023 Notable Book by the American Library Association. His debut, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, was long-listed for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, among other honors. His work appears in many publications, including three editions of The Best American Poetry. He has received two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from Kundiman, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. He was the 2018-2022 Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University and currently teaches for the low-residency MFA programs at New England College and Stonecoast.



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