this is not who we are

in memory of the 2019 christchurch mosque shooting victims

how easy it is
to undo something we have spent
a generation building
a white man spends 17 minutes
shooting
prayers in a mosque

and i am five years old again
cuffed by
go home, go home, go home
alleyway chants echoing
military footsteps

my mother
prying out the accented machete burrowed
between her teeth
and me, learning to love
daffodils
the sun
honey

how many times have i called this place
home?

the room sags
beneath something heavy
i light a candle but the flame
stumbles
on gunfire thickets
i purge all the glass from my room

let me tell you about release
hours spent
throwing thrashing fish back
into the ocean
a grown man
crying
at his mother’s funeral

come, come
my hand has to find a way to yours
fingers pressing together until
vessels anastomose
the sky
stretching hues
to become the water
until there is no horizon
there is no break

say you won’t ever forget this
say you will draw hatred an asymptote so it can never reach us again
say one day you will love something so much you’d kill for it
almost

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building a home

first, tell me about missing home
my fingers aching to graze piano keys
so instead, they find ways to keep busy, like
taking hot baths, soaked into rose petals
brushing every strand of hair, and lacing it back
wrapping around elixirs of tea and
finding melodies in all the jasmine and apricot notes

and then, about finding home,
dusty bookstores, my fingertips kissing these spines
that still hold, even after bleeding all these words
being opened and read, over and over
and i think, i must have had a life here once
the way i still let them in, even after all this
somehow still standing, still verbose

then finally, about building a home
gathering the memories that blaze
melt them into wax, and pour them into glass jars
light them in the early dawn
flickers percolating the shadows before the sun can
i let the liquid run through my veins, to the tips of my fingers
carry it with me everywhere i go

and so, like this, i am always home

remember me like this

and finally, we allow ourselves to be seen in plain sight
spread our gossamer souls flat on the table
the fatigue i’ve hauled around for so long has finally alighted
our fingers close around something soft
we deserve this, after all the enamel we’ve drilled

i think about everything this girl has left behind
how sometimes my mind still plays your name like a staccato note
but it’s different now, it doesn’t hurt anymore
to not think about you, and i’ve still no idea how to love
but damn at least i haven’t stopped trying

and oh, how the years have passed, our ages in tow
leaving greener days behind, and
growing closer to something that may resemble adulthood
but god, the way we hold the world in our palms
in moments like these, will never change

whatever our expiry date is, we are far from it tonight
we blow out the candles but they relight again and again
i laugh until it fills up my entire body, and then some
until it is all i can taste in my mouth and every word
i speak is laced with something iridescent

so i curl up somewhere nondescript
listen to the oscillating voices around thread in and out
wrap myself in the tapestry of all our stories
coax out the writer who has hid in the wings all this time
and weave us all a happy ending

hey 21, when you think back
please always remember me like this

one day at a time

how it pains the soul to care so much
about what it means to be flush
the butterflies in my stomach awaken a distant storm somewhere
left over, from another generation
handed down the left arms of a family tree

most days i am only a quarter of a millimetre off
but it is still too much, still a void
as long as we are not touching there is still a distance to catch on
one i endeavour to close, like a violin vibrato
straining to be nudged to the next semi-tone over

oh, how the bridges break as we build them
and i miss home in the strangest of times, always
the click of a boiled kettle, the chartreuse of last night’s tea dregs
sometimes i want to shout the world my secrets
hear them echoed back to me in a voice more resolute

we search for guns beneath an oppressive heat
waiting 8-4 for a sultry rain, but at night
only dry thunder rolling out like a red carpet
for lightening to transcend, down plunging canals
that lie somewhere mired in a vegetation of softened bone

bite together now, and tell me it doesn’t hurt anymore
in the space between your molars, where you ground away
words that should have been spoken, and find it somewhere within
to believe there may be something left for yourself after all this
love, take it slowly now, one day at a time

full circle

instead of going home at nine
like i had promised my mother
i let him talk me into staying out past midnight
because I think this is what being young is all about

that night i have a dream about intimacy
there is a darker shade of skin against mine
my hair is so long it swathes me like a cloak
that he doesn’t hesitate to fissure

the next day i let myself fall, the good kind
one that can almost be mistaken for flying
it rains and for once i don’t miss your voice
and i think, perhaps my body is allowed to take up space

but then, my eyes
brush against something that might be your regret
the e string straining from heart to brain gives
and i am hopeful again, the way i dreamt i wouldn’t be

i stumble to you in a patchwork soul
one that you hold at arm’s distance, still not enough
and i wonder why i still sing for you
when you hear my words like metal grating metal

at home, i watch the girl in the mirror who cannot stop crying
there is a plant on my desk that needs watering
this is familiar, i think i have been here before
all this later, and i’m back to where you first left me

tiding over

to think there was once a time when
every soul was untouched, pure
how we could visit the ocean and not think of anyone
sleep in the waters without drowning

i think back to how he left her at the shore
let go just as the waves eclipsed
how most of her has since found dry sand
but a part of her is still searching for his hand

now i watch her visit the darkened beach
submerge herself, ankle-deep
fill her heart with every broken seashell
braid back her hair so the wind can greet her cheeks

listen – there is a crescendo somewhere in the distance
and it is coming for you; i can feel it
in the way the skies crack open cans of moonlight
sweeping all the shadows home

so i reach for her hand and ask her to love me
and for once she doesn’t look away
she draws close for a hug
and i feel my own arms wrap around me

golden hour

so it’s true then, that anything can sound
casual, if delivered like a weather report
i think it might rain later and
i think this is it for us
you talk about sunsets and sunrises

like chatting about times of the day
as if they are only weather, and i wonder if i should nod
along, like i have not spent a lifetime
grappling for allegories, foraging
for metaphors to squeeze myself into

there is something heavy about carrying so many words
rearranging them, hoping to gouge out poetry
lugging backpacks of language to mountain peaks
cast them at the horizon
at clouds and lakes and the sun, oh

always the sun
i will be the first to watch it rise one day and
when a strand accidentally stumbles on the cusp of my scars
for a fractured second i will think of you
for a moment this light will belong to you

i picture you at the bar
november, hair flaxen from your single malt echo
before the sun vibrates to soak the sky
swathes me in a glow so soft i forget the metal
of your words, to realise

i have always been this golden