Watch Your Head
Coach House Books, 2020
A warning, a movement, a collection borne of protest.
In Watch Your Head, poems, stories, essays, and artwork sound the alarm on the present and future consequences of the climate emergency. Ice caps are melting, wildfires are raging, and species extinction is accelerating. Dire predictions about the climate emergency from scientists, Indigenous land and water defenders, and striking school children have mostly been ignored by the very institutions – government, education, industry, and media – with the power to do something about it.
Writers and artists confront colonization, racism, and the social inequalities that are endemic to the climate crisis. Here the imagination amplifies and humanizes the science. These works are impassioned, desperate, hopeful, healing, transformative, and radical.
This is a call to climate-justice action.
Cover design by Ingrid Paulson
...Watch Your Head does not disappoint. It serves as a warning to heed, a reminder to be thought of often, and a well-thought-out piece of art. Throughout the anthology, readers encounter pieces that provoke and insist, demanding attention, consideration, action, and creativity. Essays and stories and images alike bring about questions and statements on Indigenous rights, white privilege, exploitation of land and people, colonial power structures, place, home, language, and imagination.
This anthology is not to be missed. The pandemic may have defined our year, but the climate crisis defines our time in geological history. See how this roster of talented writers and artists advance the conversation, put the crisis in context and call for climate justice.
in the water before the eye
barbed wire tree mine of bone
who flashed bland sea for bargain
can’t return a banished house or tiny mineral father
couldn’t lose a follow brother singing another wind tune
grows out of trench a trailing sea pried open grey city
smells like orphan and sweat a small muscle world
a kind of thick pouring chaining hush of voices circling up sky
"Jailed Tree" first published in R2: the Rice Review.
BREATH FOR GUAN YIN
1. brought to pond 10,000 steps a hum
each cascade of yellow tile supported by sturdy red
one metal figure waiting on water to quiet mind’s battle
metallic rain horde means fill your bathtub cook all food no water in grocery store gas
station line to empty crush of leftover white cardboard boxes floorlength we unpack lift
no bathing no showering do we have an axe? a tight set of drawers in lungs
slow a breath for ritual smoke
open late door and friend a shoe on busy rack
enter already-breathing room one hundred golden figures sitting in perch
each sewn seat in neat place
considering attic a man walks in front of watching window no shoes we could second
each foot slowly again again
floor it a message says to knock on airbnb door
2. man or woman? man or woman? no other options at check-in ladies or jocks?
no time for questions 11 size sneakers pair of grey shorts woman’s blouse children’s
shoes what size? line of eagers at distribution line all-day Rice University students writing
fill big blue bags sort through assembly walkers toothbrushes pillows blankets
a hot commodity special line form to right
‘don’t you Mister me!’ I see who wanted ladies’ shoes repeating request ‘I’m not a
Mister! I’m not a Mister!’ & no response before turning away from line toward a line of beds
volunteer supervisor no time for questions
I write on post-it note please no assumptions please respect please
no time for questions
3. friend said ‘all the aunties chanting’ brought me green
one sound four meanings I enter inflection meaning mother not horse
meaning guide sits sings lesson from diverging
chemical cloud ping pings a hot, rushing air all bodies in yard humming in mind
thick infection in head
can’t say I broke much trying not to ingest 10,000 hurricane microbes
let go spider tendrils
4. at the lost and found eyeglasses a credit card note left at desk because no cell
woman in wheelchair checks in again about no cell phone cold
white-haired unshaven’s waded through waters wants help calling FEMA
from Louisiana to Katrina lost bags maybe at last shelter lost daugher or son back in LA
we roll through shelter names and phone number I inhale smoke dial disembodied numbers to
how to attach sister in empty seat
how to cling worthy ache how to bring down rain
why chant dead grandmothers into room animal set loose in chest only one a
believer and other a cook preparing food for hungry repentants
5. when street drains is there pressure in street
all notes escaping injure to try not
exhume breath from body
walk away from dead night throw arms to air
hoping for birds to land
"Breath for Guan Yin" first published in Spiral.
Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017; winner of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry) as well as the chapbooks how to make black paper sing (speCt! Books, 2019) and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2020 and a Finalist for the Leslie Scalapino Award). Chen is also the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011; AK Press 2016) and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009). They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat and Imagining America and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in Asian American communities in San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside, Boston, Milwaukee and Houston. www.chinginchen.com
Watch Your Head is an online journal of creative works devoted to the climate crisis and climate justice.
New work is published monthly!
Check out our latest project: a print anthology published by Coach House Books!
Watch Your Head: Writers & Artists Respond to the Climate Crisis
Coach House Books
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