The Take

The Take

I will quit my novel and leave Western Massachusetts at the end of October

After Chen Chen

For sometimes the breadth of a project holds us
and other times holds us back.

For sometimes you must drive 1800 miles across the midwest
and pass through the city of your ex and his new family to get home.

For sweaters await me in a storage unit box, one
thick and green, another soft and camel, a third rough with zigzags and circles.

For I keep visualizing the stretch of highway outside Fairplay, Colorado,
where it is only the valley and no service.

For you have to pick your music early
or else commit to silence.

For to see all the way to the horizon
is humbling, as are the West’s infinite shades of beige.

For the farmer’s voice memos have me thinking
of cement paths around ponds at night and the city lights beyond.

For there are many people down on Denver
but I am not one of them.

For there is a nook in the backyard of my sister’s house
where I will play pretend with my nephew beneath evergreen branches.

For the contours of the land are right there and it’s really something
to know exactly what the setting of your next adventure looks like.

For I will laugh with Gioia and dance with Jess and pedal with Meg and sit
with my parents and cook with my sister and the sun will go down slow at first then all at once.

Editor’s Statement (Jonah Meyer):

I appreciate that Barrett’s poem is a playful nod to the poet Chen Chen. And specifically, her use of quite precise, sensory-pleasing imagery is right-on: the sweaters in the storage box, “thick and green,” “soft and camel,” “rough with zigzags and circles,” the West’s “infinite shades of beige” along the highway road-trip, the nook of evergreen branches in her sister’s backyard, where the poet will play pretend with her nephew. Finally, that last gallop of a two-line stanza contains within it so much freedom and joy—and delivers, with its sun-setting illustration, a formidable ending to an already-outstanding poem.


The Take, poet’s statement:

I’m primarily a fiction writer, but I use poetry to diversify my writing routine. This particular poem came during a time I felt pretty paralyzed in my creative life as a whole. It’s a very loose imitation of Chen Chen’s poem “For I Will Consider My Boyfriend Jeffrey,” which is itself an imitation of Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, [For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry].” Both pieces are so playful and specific and exultant, I wanted to channel that energy back into my own writing. I was thinking a lot about landscape and creative process too, so this ended up being a love poem to the places and people who can return me to a state of wonder. It’s a pep talk to remember I can always pass through what feels like failure—I can find my way back to the expansiveness I want my creative practice to continually inhabit.


By Kate Barrett

Kate Barrett is a fiction writer and poet with her MFA from the University of Montana. Her work has appeared in CUTBANK, CATCH, and CARVE Magazine, among others. In addition to her writing life, she is an outdoor educator and most recently co-founded an LGBTQ-friendly hostel for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail in western Massachusetts. She resides in Denver.