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The Handwritten Poetry Project was born from my strong love for poetry and handwriting, as the name suggests. The simple beauty words can evoke is alluring, and the way they draw themselves on paper has a magic of their own. I selected a number of my poems written many months to over a year ago, and have then given them out for people to copy in their most natural handwriting. This was an experimentation on my part; I wanted to explore how other people’s handwriting – and more specifically and importantly, the identity, personality, and human behind it – can have an effect on my words to provide a different translation visually. This merging of arts – poetry and handwriting – and of identities – mine and the contributors’ – was a wild experimentation which I had great pleasure doing and is something deeply meaningful and personal to me. Everything aside, this is also simply a collection to share my passion for writing and an appreciation for penmanship. Enjoy. Judy Chen February 2013

BEGINNINGS handwritten poetry project

The light turns green/The car says go/Driving up hilly streets/Watching condos and red bricks tumble behind/ Rolling down the road that we leave for good/The static of the broken radio vibrates with the nippy air/The rumbling of the wheels/Grunting beneath our seats/We bid the beach a long goodbye/And watch California melt in the seeing sun

Electric jolts of a lethal high/Signals of bliss exploding in my bones/Firing bullets of euphoria/Verging the boundaries of insanity/Lukewarm feelings of reality/Screaming down my veins and thighs/So high up in clouds cotton soft/Where angels sing us lullabies

We hear the afternoon singing goodbye/We walk away/ Stepping tender steps on melted snow/Pressing the grass under our feet/Carrying our bones in a scattered collection of broken pieces/The late train peels itself away from the station/And I watch the mirror image of me speed away too/The air rattles with the sound of our whispers/Soft air escaped from between our thin, purple lips/The last showers of sunshine die over the bony hills/ We are fallen with questions of ourselves/The missing piano keys play a lost tune of our mutual sadness/I wish so much we could just sing it away/And see it disappear with the fading orange hues

These children have already bade childhood goodbye/ With a bitter train of laughter trailing off like the last smell of sunshine and memory of innocence/Having one final sober birthday party before acid tabs become the new M&M’s/And acrid vodka the new club soda/The sky turns from blue to purple to pink to a rusting burnt orange/But there is life breathing in their meager and smoke-filled lungs/They are still so young/We all still are

The world sounds like squeaky bicycles and the jokes of children/The world smells like roasted coffee and human sweat/The world feels like summer rain tapping on our windows and really good sex in our weed-filled backyard/ The world is alive

I want to drink until I have flooded myself a river that smells like rotten grapes and dead fish/We can go skinny dipping and savor the taste of death with the pores of our skin/The slick layer of alcohol on my tongue/And the aftermath of watery kisses spell a night of forbidden love to me/Blinding rainbow lights illuminate the darkness sleeping in my eyes/Honey, I just want you here to share this loneliness with me

Morning brings the sick reminder of our hungover bodies/Our underwear tied together on the carpetless floor/ Your blue-green eyes peer from under your heavy lids/ The little frown between your eyebrows saying you don’t remember my name/I give you a hint and you say, “Andrea, right?” laughing like it’s the most natural thing to do/“I’m Carl,” you reintroduce, thinking I’ve forgotten the sweet twirl of your name/But what I would do just to be able to forget you/File you under yet another drunken encounter/And fool myself into thinking that the bottles of wine under your night stand were meant for us

This is a plea/This is me begging/Beseeching/Needing/I need a release/You can load up and I will pull the trigger, okay?/Please, set me free

I cried, “God, put me out of my misery,”/But did he hear?/ Was I not loud enough/Or is he too deaf for words?

Empty coke bottles line the forlorn streets/Driving down the darkened alleys with rolled-down windows/I can feel a breeze of loneliness splattering itself onto the broken windscreen/I can smell burned cigarette paper from between your fingers/We pull over by rusted garage doors and ask for a dose of magic/Throwing our bodies in the back seat and leaning our heads back/I can feel electric waves firing up my brains/I look over to you/And in your eyes I watch an ache growing with your pupils/Because no matter how high we are or how close our bodies touch/We still feel that searing throb of loneliness reeking in these city nights

Pour me a glass of wine with drops of acid/Just because I welcome recklessness tonight and embrace the rush of danger/Longing for the taste of propinquity to death/ To stand at the brink/And peer over the edge/One step away from where the darkness after life awaits/Feed me a whole sea of poisons/To feel my insides explode/With the force of a thousand beating drums

Traffic lights leak themselves through the night sky/ With honking cars and neon signs spilling from bars like alcohol, dressing the forlorn pavements in broken wine glasses/With dance music throbbing in your tired bones/ You almost feel real/We’ll drive ourselves home/With the smell of gin and leather lathered up our yellow bodies/ Stained the color of hanging stars that shine through our wounds/Cutting our flesh like swords of words

Gulping down the doubt/Hoping that denial will mean happiness/They say ignorance is bliss/This not-knowing almost kills/But sometimes it’s better to not know/And believe in fairy tales and magic dust/Walking past empty storefronts for rent and hearing glass break under my shoes/It doesn’t help with the questioning/But maybe I can spend my way out of sadness and fool myself into thinking that gold and silver can make me real/Even if all they do is blind me in their glimmer/And weigh me down like a hundred thousand murderous pounds

You drive on the wrong side of the road/Trying to impress me/The windows are rolled down/And from the backseat I can see the wind dancing in your hair/And the sun glowing in your eyes/I watch all the cars driving toward us/And the entire street rushing forward/We laugh with the summer air in our lungs as we see trucks and buses trying to dodge us/The red and blue of police cars begin chasing us/The adrenaline feels euphoric as you slam down the gas/And here we go/Speeding through the red lights/And flying through town/Until we reach the outskirts/Where trees are heavy and birds sing upon our arrival/You park the car behind an abandoned gas station/And we can only continue laughing/Laughing at our stupidity and fat cops with mustaches/Laughing at distraught cab drivers and our naughty escape/We make out in between bursts of laughter/And all I am thinking is that life is good/Life is really good

Even printed letters will fade/Recorded voices will falter/ Memories will be forgotten/This all is like a flowing river/ And nothing stays permanent/Even the oldest trees will die/The longest nights will end/The best-kept promises will lose their meanings/Because life brings forth death/ And death, life/Everything changes/From spring to summer/And autumn to winter/Nothing remains forever/This will all disappear one day/We will all cease to exist one day

We are playing the better hand/Ignoring the anger burning in our mouths/And taming our petty desires to feel alive/Would we feel happier if we stopped comparing the way we feel to the way we think we are supposed to feel?/Would a shot of holy light illuminate the darkness of our suffering and guide us home?/Can we find peace among the insanity rioting in our heads?/Can we find peace within ourselves?

We are crying but no one sees/The scars tear on the inside/The bleeding burns my eyes/But this pain is concealed in our seemingly happy existence/And our own denial in this sadness/We are alive but are we living?/We are not alone but are we lonely?/Give me answers/I am yearning for reasons that justify this insanity

There was a brilliance somewhere we extinguished/ Let it out with a puff of our acid breaths/Each and every particle of those magical little moments/Clinging on to the hope that these sparks will grow again from nothing/And light up this heaviness

Just crooked smiles and ladened eyes/Gazing in your direction while mapping out the impossibilities and routing my actions and gestures/Wiring words in my brains/ Trying to make them sound sane/They piece into broken phrases and unfinished sentences/Reaching for you/But coated with layers and layers of fear/So heavy that they eventually give up to gravity/And sink to my feet

Yearning for the impossible/That taste of forbidden desire/A sugar-coated poison laced with lustful cravings that gives me the feeble smiles and attempts to make myself appear I am thinking straight/Yet all the while I am doing math in my head and calculating just how many words I need to speak/Before I can reach you

I so fiercely want to lose ourselves in each other/For our heartaches to die to the same rhythm/I want to explore you from the inside out so you become my adventure/ And the lines on your skin my map/That in our misery/We can temporarily forget

I smell summer on your fingertips/And a lingering taste of sweet lemonade on the corner of your mouth/The August breeze nests in your hair/Dancing salsa with your words as they twirl/Empty highways frame these fields/We throw our bodies into the sunflowers/Crushing them with the weight of our laughter

I want to read you by the moonlight/Study the lines of your face as poetry/And be able to recite all the little details/Like the way smiles draw themselves around your eyes/Or the way silent words glide from your tongue/ Bathed in the shine of darkness/The night sky drapes itself across our tender bodies/We fall asleep with sweet dreams pulling at our drowsy lids/And promises of love dangling like these yellow stars

I am reminded of the grace we have lost/These years we have left behind/Gathering dust with the rest of our memories/They speak without words/And sing with no song/ But they bloom like wild flowers/I lie down and watch stars burn until they die and leave a trail of ash/Caking the remaining darkness in its powdered glory/And when the sky is bled with a diffusing whiteness/The morning cries and I do my best to forget all that I failed to remember/And to remember all that could never be forgotten/ The world breaks into its anthem/And I yearn so much to find grace in its words/But they only make me sadder

It’s not about forcing happiness, it’s about not letting sadness win/It’s not about fighting sadness perpetually to remain happy, it’s about embracing this sadness and being happy in this sadness

This fleeting wave of happiness is replaced by a permanent stain of memories/That leave me defeated and soaked up with melancholy/I inhale but every breath is clogged with an overwhelming sadness I cannot overcome

I am afraid/I am consumed in mountains of ineffable fear/ But I am still alive/Or am I just afraid of living?/Because your friends say death is the best partner to make love to/ When you feel so worn down by other people’s aliveness

Bridging our distances/Because sometimes it feels like there are two oceans between us/Each as cold as the touch of your skin/As icy as the breath of your speaking/ Deep rolling blue/Glistens of white/Dazzling their brilliancy to make up for our inproximity/They can build a hundred Golden Gate Bridges/But even then, I simply hope you swim with me/And drown together if we have to

I feel the heat rising/The passion pulsing/A party between my legs/And a release beneath your pants/There is music thumping in my blood/And lights blazing like fireworks/A kiss shared between yearning tongues/An aftertaste of forbidden desires/When we touch/There is electricity speeding from our fingertips/Exploding, as we dissolve into each other

These stars glow like Christmas balls/But the music sung is of sorrowful tunes to bade the day goodbye/We watch these constellations tell stories/And feel the grass poking through our clothes/I gently slip your name from my tongue and let it escape between my lips/Your name sounds like a smooth promise/A whisper of tenderness/I look over and watch the sky lighting up in your eyes/I see a softness and delicacy behind the light brown/I see tiredness drawing themselves around the corner of your eyes/But you seem only more beautiful this way/Your shallow breath heats up my neck/And I feel your words sauntering in my ears/These little moments will linger

You asked me with a light laugh, “Why would you do that?”/At that time I didn’t know how to answer, so I just returned a smile of sorts/But if you asked me again, I would tell you it’s because I want to, and because I feel like I have to, because I need a release, and this releases me/I would tell you this all, and tell you so much more.

When all this eludes you/You try to give name to this namelessness/In hopes of identifying this chaotic trainwreck/But even after you’ve given these feelings fancy titles/And donned them flowered crowns/They still kill you as surely as before

I don’t know what I hear when I listen to the world or myself/But what I often hear is a weeping/Crying unceasingly as if it were breathing/But there is no breathing, just this weeping

Breaking down this logic/To find the secrets and hidden messages concealed behind colors of the Milky Way/Obfuscated under feelings of rainy skies and cloudy days/ Dissect me/Tear me apart/Break me down into answers to all your obscure motives and treacherous smiles

When words fail me/All I have left are tears/They fall like a million pounds/Drilling holes into your shoulders/I am speechless but there are so many things I want to say/ There is a whole ocean of secrets I want to let loose/But for some reasons nothing comes out/And I am left with the Atlantic swimming in my heart

We can joke about things like falling in love/And leave behind not a single trace of worry/As if this were all taken for granted/Like the music in your fingers/Or the sleepiness of your hair/When every morning and each cup of black coffee is routine/The way you turn on the radio/Or prepare your toast/Simple things like post-jog showers or a quickie on the kitchen table/If all the stars could burn for us/Or if all the children could laugh with us/I wonder if we’d see each other differently/And realize that maybe there are sometimes things that we’ll never know/Things like voting a Republican or moving to Canada/Things like talking to God or falling in love

We whisper with the night air on our tongue/Strewn with all the little words we spoke before/But never made any sense of/There is music playing in our hands/As our fingers dance on each other’s skin a slow, smooth jazz/ Our lips pressed together to seal the unsaid promises/ The stars sprinkle themselves in your eyes/And I wonder if you watch the whole world spin even in your sleep/ Or dream about far away galaxies that don’t exist/The melted frost on the grass wets our naked bodies/But I can smell spring is just around the corner/Waiting to be released

Harsh lights spill onto your face/They soak into your pores/Every breath you take/Your lungs ignite/And set your heart on fire/Lay back on the cutting table/Invite knives to cut you open/And set your bones free

In those hazy mornings when reality is only half realized/I dream of you sharing the same single bed with me/Having body parts oddly and awkwardly tangled/Much like all the words we spill in the consciousness of a 3-a.m. mind

Every hello that unfolds itself from the creases of your smile/Every extra second your glare lingers on the clumsiness of my words/Every little indeliberate brush of our hands/I sometimes hope they mean more than what they are/More than politeness or patience or hopeful accidents/And even if they do mean something else/I am too worn down to figure them out

Drinking into oblivion/Driving past red lights/Cursing at the top of our lungs/About red-neck politicians and the illusional democracy/Echoes of fantasies/November presidential elections/We’ll throw a cocaine party/Sing the national anthem with glassy eyes in our red-blue blankets/Cash all our prescriptions and call it the apocalypse of the American youth/Baby-sitting our sweet dreams of becoming the new Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett/While the world burns under our heels/We count the speeding cars/ And let ourselves float away from the prison of our bones

Oh, child/You once made me feel so old/I felt like a thousand years of stones/So heavy on my shoulders/I am still dragging along/Oh, child/You once made me feel so tall/ Maybe I could have tiptoed to touch the clouds/Jumped to reach the heaven grounds/When I stood/I stood up high/To see beyond where ocean meets the sky/ Oh, child/You once made me feel stronger than I was/I opened bottles and cracked open cans/I lifted you up above my head/You took a ride downtown on my back/I carried you so light/Oh, do you remember/Do you still remember?/The winter mornings and algid 6 a.m.’s/Lukewarm milk and over-toasted bread?/Oh, tell me you still remember/Tell me you have no forgotten/After all these years/(After all these years)

Oh, this has been a few years/And they feel like a lifetime/But I don’t yet want to die/And have these feelings leave me/Is this the beginning/Or is this the ending?/ What if it’s both and it lasts an eternity?/Will forever be enough for all the stories and words we have not been able to say?

I plant a few kisses on your freckled bare shoulders/ Your skin feels warm against my lips/It feels dangerous/ Seductively provocative/Daring me to advance/You seem so real in these lies and so close in these distances/But you seem equally unreal in reality/And so out-of-reach in our proximity/I whisper behind your ears and am struck by such uncontrollable yearning:/Not just to explore your anatomy from north to south/And pronounce you mine/ But to immerse in your spirit and swallow you whole/So we are a part of each other/Your eyes speak with softness/And my reflection swims in the amber/Wading back and forth/Finding its way to you/These desires have dominated me/But they also enliven me with inspiration and a passion for the ordinary/These desires have consumed me indefinitely/But this is nonetheless happiness

I tied guitar strings to my throat/Hoping to choke out those 60’s country songs/Had my fingers stringing invisible notes to spell out all the slow nights by the bonfire/ Where we could talk until our voices drifted into a light snore/Our nightmares burning with the morning paper and our dreams scintillating like fireflies/Maybe the American West is a fantasy/But I believe in the hopes it carried

Acknowledgements My deepest thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Handwritten Poetry Project in one way or another: Craig Oldham, whose project inspired me to do mine; Lina Farrow, for her guidance throughout the past months; Ido, for his words; and all those who contributed their handwriting to this book. Everyone and anyone who helped me – knowingly or unknowingly – gain deeper understanding and bring my vision to fruition, I extend my gratitude to them.

Profile for Judy Chen

Beginnings: Handwritten Poetry Project  


Beginnings: Handwritten Poetry Project