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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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

spring cleaning

spring in this city always has me blooming
pollen, an aphrodisiac that waters my eyes
last night i let myself dream for the first time since the flowers frosted
and when i woke up the sunlight had already chilled
it keeled at my feet, a field of canola someone forgot to harvest

i think, i must be growing
the other night i drank until i thought it was a good idea
to lie down on a train track i was only half sure was abandoned
and still, i didn’t speak your name
it must have something to do with this mown grass balm

my muscles, no longer straining to pull my lips into a curve
the heart, still sprinting, but now with a destination
in mind, my brain entertaining hobbies other than second-guessing
and tongue and teeth, both have finally stopped jostling for space
to remind my mouth it should sometimes try speaking

i let juvenescence oscillate so urgently against my palms
my mother tells me
hey young one, it’s ok to squander your youth sometimes
so i make the mistake of falling in love over and over
just to remind myself some things never change

but i will have a daughter one day, and i will name her after this season
the way my mother was named for all the promise a tender bud cradles
i will teach her about vivaldi, and monet, and woodsworth
give her petals to scatter with every step she takes
so she can always find her way back home

red light

waking up, a head beside yours
(blame salome if you must)
and you know it was not a dream
him, hand spanning the length of your insecurities
and you, starving enough to accept even stale attention

afterwards, take two showers, one after another
vanilla and raspberry milk
scrub his handprints from your body
but your skin still wears like smudged glass
still smeared with cigarette streaks

woman, when did your love become so cheap?
waste tom ford on his goon-flavoured lips
a marathon body on his unwashed hands
phds on his patriarchal mind
he slurs that you’re pretty, and you tell him you love him

how many more needle pricks before the wound is stitched
how many more cheap thrills to hit your self-worth
look at you, so tired of the scratch of black lace
volunteering yourself as an answer
to questions he never had the right to ask

tell yourself you feel cherished this way
but i know you haven’t ever felt cheaper
he breaks in, and you thank him for visiting
letting them take you, have you, own you
never asking to stay, to be kept

call it selfless, if nothing else

millennial pink

we sip vodka sunrises at midnight
you are one-hundred-and-twenty-two days from 18
and i, forty-seven
men pass and whistle at our cling-wrap skirts
and i have never felt more like a woman

you grab my hand and we sprint through the city
through red lights and intersections
baby giraffes in 12cm stilettos
it is so pretty to have a laugh that tastes like candy-floss
looks as unicorn as our frappuccinos

this night is about us – this month, this lifetime
it is an art you know, to wrap things around our fingers
even when are hands are full – darling,
we are so good at making our business everyone else’s concerns
the world at our feet, still learning how to kneel

everything is pastel now, soft of hue
the world bruises our rose-petal skin
with shades too vivid, so we close our eyes
build exposed brick walls and keep this oblivion idyllic
too busy feeling sorry for ourselves to ever apologise

the first time i let him kiss me, his teeth bite my lips
tells me it’s so soft, and i convince myself i like it
later, his licked words soil my white dress
leaves mud streaks on my ivory canvas
insists there is no point staying clean in a world so dirty

mama tells me soon this limelight will start to taste sour
the blue light will finally feel too cold
but for now i just want to dance like them
this mind is too feathered for grating ideas
and everything is lighter without thoughts, be thoughtless

it is exhausting to be anything but conventional, you know

dionysus

when he first sees her, his lips are already stained
claret, from the scores of girls he’s drunk in tonight.
she serves her name to him in a crystal flute
all clinks and bubbles, and he tells her
he has never known one before.

i want to take her by the stem, say
woman, you have waited an eternity
oak and steel, to be kissed by a man
the right way, who swirls
twirls, legs dancing to all the right rhythms.

he has been waiting for a fruit like this
the way your light body sways.
amber eyes, floral bouquet-
his tongue has been dry for a while
but darling, riesling, you are all sugar.

it’ll be love at first sip, of course
something that balances this lush, this crisp
tannin, cinnamon, tucked away for later.
he will learn that soon and for it
keep you close, maybe even ask for more.

it is easy, to find home in someone
whose fingers wrap like vines around you but
oh, remember that he is a seasoned sommelier
and soon enough, like he’s done so many times already
he will spit you out, of course he will.

so woman, show him how you leave.
tip-toe off his palate but let your shadow linger
long after your body has left, leave a trace
but not enough for him to find his way back to you
and one day, i promise, he will come to taste his mistake.

On and On

Friend, I know you are tired.
I know you have been tired since you learnt that the Earth is round,
And you can only run so far before you start coming back again.
It is exhausting to watch it orbit the sun every single day,
Dragging the moon in its wake-
Even after all these years, no one has gotten any closer.

I think,
This is getting too heavy,
The way the ocean always cries wolf to the moon
For its waves to be pulled to safety.
Maybe one day the moon will finally know better;
Maybe one day water molecules will have to learn to jump.

I think,
This is getting too repetitive,
The way leaves always start out green
But end up orange before they fall.
Maybe one day winter will grow impatient and cut the queue;
Maybe one day spring will forget to grow them altogether.

You tell me about how you hate dusk,
The way it so selfishly siphons the light away,
Leaves darkness pressing down like a cafetière.
In an attempt to be brave,
You act nonchalant about the moon’s absence tonight.
I think, you must be afraid the sun will forget to rise come dawn-
That’s why you can’t sleep these days,
That’s why you keep watch all night.

Scientists say if the Earth suddenly stopped spinning,
Everything would  be swept away into the atmosphere;
You, me, everything we’ve ever scrambled to understand.
But for now, it’s expected to continue for at least another billion years-
I wonder how it has the energy.

Oh, but think of our hearts-
How, every time another left,
We declared it irreparable.
Yet our bodies put it together again over and over;
Even after all this time, it continues to beat.
Friend, we will be just fine.