Cathy Linh Che

In What Way

In what way does the room map out violence?

Internal weather rain pings like nails on cement.

I pulled weeds with my ungloved hand,
tore them whole from the ground.

The dark expanded like a shadow.

The sky pressed down
in a sheet of obsidian.

How I imagine an un-punctured universe—
We begin whole then slowly deflate.

After the break-up,
I feel pitted, but too full of him.

That muck.

Drove past the windy bluffs of Los Angeles.
The sagebrush seemed anchored to the cliffs.

Rain, an emotion skidding.

I watched a seagull dip into the water
and rise shimmering.

Doc, I felt him ebb in the endless summer.

I want a self-actualized
kind of weather


The plate glass window was cold against my forehead.

I don’t recall being sick.

His hand brushed against my breasts
as I passed in the hall.

I was ten, eleven.

The body’s disorderly circuitry.

The page flipped, and I saw a picture of myself with a swollen eye.

It was a dream,
which signifies what.


His thumb was crooked—double-jointed rather, and it hurt—

Minus pleasure, what we experienced was, on one hand, a kind of rape—

There is no other hand but the one he used to palm my stomach—

Except with him, I wasn’t there—I was a border, and he crossed—

I filled up with fog in the summer heat—

His eyes were cool and lanced right through me.

Copyright © Cathy Linh Che, from her book Split. Permission was granted from: Alice James Books.


Cathy Linh CheCathy Linh Che is the author of Split (Alice James, 2014), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. A Vietnamese American poet from Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA, she received her BA from Reed College and her MFA from New York University. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from Poets & Writers, The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, Kundiman, Hedgebrook, Poets House, The Asian American Literary Review, The Center for Book Arts, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace Residency, and a Jerome Foundation Travel Grant. She was also a Writer in Residence at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA Program. A founding editor of the online journal Paperbag, she is Managing Director at Kundiman. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Niki Herd

Niki Herd

Curator’s Notes: I picked this poem because it’s badass. I picked it as a testament to all the women who will never have a magazine cover devoted to them to acknowledge the predatory practice of rape.