Unfurling Again, by Ching-In Chen

June’s Storyknife fellow, Ching-In Chen sent us this beautiful zuihitsu* in response to their time in residence. We are so pleased to share it with you.


Unfurling Again: revisiting a zuihitsu

          Arriving again three plane rides and time zones away at a practice I return to – patience when there is no one else but me to wait for. In another landscape of air, horizon of blue, I unpeel my wintertime selves, cram myself full of light.


         From another time and place, Arthur Sze on a collaboration with Susan York, The Unfolding Center:  “Yes, there’s a lot of what I consider breathing tides; inhaling, exhaling, the physicality of breath and the turning points …”

         I didn’t know it, but my earlier self had planned a pause – a breath from my post-hurricane headaches, ever-advancing tension.


The writer’s conference, greedy with words, watching myself turn in another life.

         Build fragments, small migrations of pen. Watching window, adapting through forest, an ear out as I learn about plants.

A new friend calls and says walk, so I walk on stones and listen for seepage. In the wind, we talk and secret, make private adventures. I cultivate a habit of visiting.

         Listen for sun through the windowpane of a not-present woman’s house. Search anyway for her imprint, her breath recorded in condensed walls.

I am looking to make a routine ritual, even if only temporary, even to say, I have a home, a small temporary one, space for expansive dreaming, for measuring my own breath.


         Leap. But I am not doing it. This is where the fight begins – a familiar dance visits whenever I gain access to a small sleeve of time. All my wintertime selves rush in from their corners and duties, turn their backs to me, shut their mouths down at the corner. I leave them their space, escape to the library, waiting for crosshatch escape words to stack into a route.

         There is one behind the library, hatched with a short bit of story. I follow until it rains, and turn down a new path, looking for the next page to turn.


Visiting ocean, I walk to sand, touch a starfish, memorize texture. I lift myself high and lose a field. As an afterthought, I send someone beloved my location in case. I cannot say it is not a pleasurable time, a churn into deep excavation. A layer of muscle and letting go.

         I stretch my own day, my own body. Climb to see a field of ice, intimate array when it starts to dusky rain. Behind me, a man – pilot – carries song like a passport, protection against large creatures, lantern spiraling down through stone.


         In another time and place, I chastise myself: Sitting with myself, the practice of it, and nowhere to hide. Contending with my own creatures. Inviting old friends, those daily mutants, granting them tiny gifts to battle on page.


These same writing questions from the corner. And the daily process, practice of answer.


*If you are unfamiliar with the form, zuihitsu is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings. The name is derived from two Kanji meaning “at will” and “pen.”


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