As part of the ENG 488: Hypertext, Graphic Novels & Pulp Fiction class at CCSU, English majors and graduate students are writing responses to some of the work in prior issues of our journal, underscoring the usefulness of electronic literature in the classroom.
Ching-In Chen’s Dream: the Disappeared Lover is intimidating yet inviting. I do not deny that I was attracted to this poem for superficial reasons such as her name, her photo and bio, the title, and Chen being a member of the LGBTQ community. And while I cannot claim to have figured out all of the intricate meanings within Chen’s piece, her poem speaks to me beyond the superficial reasons listed above.
The poem opens with the sensual image, “the slope of her back.” This erotic feminine image immediately segues into a metaphor for the mystery woman’s body. Her body is compared to “petite teacups” that act as a defense “against the hurled aggression of the day.” The feminine structure of her lover’s back is juxtaposed with the everyday experience of oppression/aggression. Then, the body metaphor takes on a deeper meaning as it encompasses the reality of oppression (through labor/work) that is leveled against women of color daily in society. There is a dual consciousness that is raised during this part of the poem, particularly relevant to Chen’s life as she is a daughter of Chinese immigrants. The reality of having multiple cultural/racial/sexual identities is explored by Chen’s awareness of the multiple functions of her lover’s (physical) body.
Chen’s lover is likened to a machine who “unscrews her tin shoulder.” While undressing, Chen is sexually aroused from the appearance of her lover’s body and the vulnerability of the moment. The metaphor of the lover’s body (as machine) is extended as Chen oils and watches as “she whirrs.” This is an especially titillating sexual metaphor, and it goes on until the “wet ground” provides “a familiar taste.” The reader is left questioning, if the lover exists? Did this experience happen? Chen’s final couple lines do little to answer our questions: “we sit inside / licking the lips off our beloved.” I like to think of this poem as a memory of the ‘everyday life’ moments in a relationship with a woman. The dream is her lover and the lover is her dream.
by Amber Smith
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