sensitive souls

turn off the lights so darkness may smudge
your silhouette outlined against the sycamore and
i may not have to feel how vividly you leave
hoping the universe can forgive
the twelfth time i got it wrong

how i crashed into the echo of a changed mind
listening to ringback tones bleed out
silent phones and empty mailboxes
awaiting hardcover books sun-faded
music scores played yellow

go easy on this abandoned cactus heart
too grating for berceuse hands
empty it into the air your voice used to wrap around
wound it back into my chest and ask her to try again
how badly i didn’t want it to be like this

i smile and then cry about it afterwards
plead to forget the night you spoke about fragility
reprised with slow voices and hushed hands
spinning vulnerability so lyrical
i wanted to give you all my softness

letting me read to you all the
scriptures of a hopeful heart
praying it wouldn’t ricochet an epitaph
then finding myself on the synagogue floor, hating
that you proved me right

like fish to water

tonight is feeling vulnerable and
i don’t want you to be two years away
wearing moonlight and lying in cotton sheets
the hues of your voice threading
a softness i wish i could be hugged by
i speak and speak but there are
not enough words
to build a hand to hold

so play a key to unlock the pianos and
write a fantasia so red
they’ll see spilt wine scrawled on bold walls
splashed over shower thoughts and 3am giggles
speech soaked to start the same and silenced
only when you kiss me light-bodied
a nocturne so blue
we’re drawn to a beach where it is dark
you’ve picked me up and i’ve let you pay
the shore stretching on for seconds
consecutive thirds and perfect fifths

i think i am ready to leave
the candle light flicker and melt
into the magma once more
we can cross borders instead of minds, fall
off the grid into vibrant monochrome and return
to the city we hold beneath our tongues
chase sixteen subway lines to an alley so foreign
so late, i almost mistake it for a dream

but then there is your voice, glowing scarlet
settling onto my cheekbones and it is so real
say one day you will let me win and
finally tell me everything
wrap stars around the syllables of my name, then
memorise a constellation into my eyes
that i am your horoscope, and vice versa
like fish to water

how to exit a body

there are good days and there are bad days
then there are days when they hold a broken mirror
to your face and say
this is a self-portrait
press seven shards of bad luck into your palms
like petals between pages
under the weight of a thousand words in every voice
except your own, but
you read them all anyway
let them take up space
your head, so heavy
and the bones in your legs aching like steel rods
this is how a lost train must come to resent its cargo
this is why people hide from store windows, and
calm lakes and silver spoons
you pour and you miss and you’re still left half empty
you want to speak and not hear your voice
you want to crawl out of this skin
burn the bad bits, then return
but you’re scared of being left with nothing

chaos theory

somewhere
a bat flaps its wings and
you
storm into my life


this is how we bloomed, in the distance strung by RNA
behind locked doors and masked smiles
you call me before we sleep
my face so close to the phone when i blink my lashes sweep the screen
and you fight to be heard over my heartbeat, a voice
so soft that it makes me want to fall
(again)
into a dream about the sage rural town
where we spend the days making smiles and the nights love
and you are never far enough for me to miss your laugh

but then i was afraid
the light would fall asymmetrically and you would hate
trees that grew enough to give shade
maybe you were scared i would let go of your hand
in library aisles where the words eat
you, like the beast inside your head
your voice on the phone too soft
for my hands to catch, i let it go
out into the cold draught
where we nurture the dying orchid

but somewhere
we manage to hold off june for a little longer
i roll your name off my tongue without fear of losing it
we watch foreign tv shows and dance on the three-point line
sing lyrics to songs we cannot name in the key of every goodbye we’ve heard

tell me the story again
the one where he spelled her teeth so loose
when her tongue asked him to stay they filled up her mouth
and there was blood and space and nothing to bite
tell me it will never happen to us
say it, even as you hold
the pliers behind your back

leave this behind
let the wind carry you away
it will stop raining here
someday

man

silence, man’s favourite food for you
feeds you every time you call
eating more but becoming less
ride up the hem to let them see skin
draping over your ribcage
so you never forget where you came from
only a part of something so much more whole

man likes to see the top of your head
your wings his favourite punching bag
fingers leashed around your neck
pray your knees bruised

swallow
the words you want to speak
swallow
everything about him

smile, but don’t show too much teeth
dentist hands hunting for a cavity
filling you with sweet lies

waiting for him is still time spent with him
11pm, the first time you hear from him all day
man likes it when you wait
for him, but not for your first time

give, give, give
he asks your camera lens dirty

man loves it best when he pushes you off a cliff
so he can talk about saving you

overwritten

like how i mistake a scar for a bookmark to remind me
where we left off, a raised white line on my skin
with lips my fingers trip over every time i try to move on
no matter how many times it heals over
pry it open when i forget the colour of november
the warmth rushing to embrace my hands, like if you
hold water to thirst it will always thank you
even if today it is only blood, i think it cannot bleed this much
without you reminiscing too, even just a graze
then tomorrow, a wound i sing to sleep
refusing to close, not while there are still apologies
to be pulled out from my mouth
my tongue writhing to form another name
and i realise i have never cried before
and i no longer have a right to
so let me bring a knife to this once more
this time, tell me how it ends
about rain that fell like there was a fire to be put out
too passionate for the leaf
who had only ever known the caress of dew
let it heal an exit wound
beneath where my pendant hangs
and when this body is finally handed off to another
when he sings songs into my collarbone hollow
and asks about it
call it just another chapter

there is another to overwrite this story now
at a horizon on the other side
with the sunrise we never got to see
give it to her to hold
and with it your good mornings
tell her not to be afraid
to jump into the ocean
because i think you are ready
and i think you will catch her this time

falling is a circle

suppose you had chosen to dive
headfirst into the vacuum
made of his silence
cushioning the fall with
all the reasons you love yourself
until he decides to take them
for himself
his promises never staying long enough for a full moon
whittling away your words
dragging your voice through the water
leaving you empty-handed, weighing like the morning after
a vivid dream
him kissing you, you waking up
melting honey in your mouth
so you become too afraid to turn off the lamp
fill every hollow with light, down to your collarbones
watch sunsets become sunrises
over and over
there are things you still can’t talk about
like the daddy issues you don’t know you have
how you are still waiting to be saved
the hospital doors open
but it is him
you hold out for

hands

it begins with a beat
of wings, a creature who does not have hands
the flutter coughed across oceans
punched and caught into countries
until the whole world is gasping for air

so then they skewer words into the skin i wear
passed down from my ancestors
i have never been more aware
of the way my hands reflect the colour of the sun
& how much better they would look covered in white gloves
because even in broad daylight the pedestrian mall walks
like a backend alley
all clenched fists and middle fingers

instead of letting you squeeze my hands
i stay home & run them under hot water for 20 seconds
i have never been more afraid
of letting my fingers reach for things
of touching, & being touched
how we try so hard to find hands that won’t hurt each other
your alcoholed palms against my cheeks all ragged
like his last breaths in the ICU, but

somewhere in the future it is 2019 again
i laugh because your voice is too soft
to hear in the crowd
you grab my hand to lead me through
& i have never breathed so easy

red flag

tell me how this is fair
a forgotten crop during harvest season
the only one to still care after
everyone has gone home
call her the last one standing & it will seem like
it was meant to be like this not
out of abandonment because
i loved your sunsets
enough to forget
the night we folded into immediately after
a javelin thrown into dreams
running off fragmented sleep
for hours and hours
until i wake up with you
against the palm of my hand like an answer
scribbled before a test
where every bubble i fill tastes like caramel
i gorge on sugar until my throat is too sore
to swallow
& you give me a pop song to empty my mouth into
don’t you think we break because
we are addicted to watching our hands rebuild?
drown this in the colour
of a father giving his daughter away on her wedding day
so that i may not see the red flag in your hand
fade to white in mine

red

shanghai, two weeks before chinese new year, and the city is red

like the lanterns hanging from the ceiling
a paper cut
in to “fu”, as in prosperity, fortune, good luck
says your aunt, chasing a red envelope into your palms
the pair you used to hold your grandfather’s hand in the hospital
one which would never tend to another rose
blossom, for which your mother was named
binding a chinese flag around your tongue
chewed through as you learnt how to use your teeth
sunk, into candied haw
lips coated sticky
drink
iced red tea to your mouth
returning home after more than a decade
drink
red wine to your mouth
cheeks exposed vermillion
riding the last line 1 metro of the night with him
the red string on your wrist jerked taut
his eyes wrapping around your body a tailored qipao, advancing
and firecrackers shouting in the distance
like gunshots
like bodies detonating during the occupation, japanese
painting the town red, painting it blood-
hush
look at how safe we are now
silhouettes nestled in the glow of the oriental pearl
a rocket to be launched
a city, ready for takeoff