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Poet Ching-In Chen pens a spell for migrant laborers

Ching-In Chen
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Cassie Mira

Each day during the month of April, KUOW is highlighting the work of Seattle-based poets for National Poetry Month. In this series curated by Seattle Civic Poet and Ten Thousand Things host Shin Yu Pai, you'll find a selection of poems for the mind, heart, senses, and soul.


n "Another Spell for the Living", Ching-In Chen writes with tenderness and care about the community of migrant massage parlor workers, sex workers, and care workers in the Chinatown-International District and greater Seattle area to humanize these women.

Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer Chinese American writer, community organizer and teacher. They are author of "The Heart's Traffic: a novel in poems" and "recombinant." Chen is co-editor of "The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities." A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Boston, Milwaukee, Houston and Seattle and are currently a core member of the Massage Parlor Outreach Project. They teach at University of Washington Bothell.

Another Spell for the Living

for Massage Parlor Outreach Project workers

for you who raised each morning
your hands clearing each ache

we remember you too now
who offered candy
sticky light to visitors / paper dissolving
in our mouths

we asked how you unwrapped
our new year

for you who stay
on your feet waiting
for bell signaling newcomer
through threshold

we remember
you too now / bringing
our small gifts and gossips
hoping to catch small
morning breaths

you wanted more honey from clear sky
did you dream of fish / to be pinned by sky’s limit
i’m dreaming of two
smoky ducks learning / to swim with oranges
floating in your own sea of dreams

An earlier version of the poem was originally written for the 2022 vigil organized by the Massage Parlor Outreach Project and included in a zine produced by the Project.

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