pearl of asia

the city wakes without pressing snooze
before heat closes in like a fist

a man brushing dust from his
shoes, that settles
no matter how little he walks
the boy, hands the size of a toy car remote
gripping the handlebars of a motorbike for one
two siblings stacked behind him

and i learn
an elderly beggar
eyes punched full of a shame that trickles
down her face, binds shut her lips
wordlessly pleading for survival
is humanity stripped down to its most raw

but still, how the sun remembers
to fondle angkor wat on its way to the sky
paints a strip of fire the width of one grace
along the horizon each morning

if the lotuses can make the choice
over and over
to build a home in this land
if i can cross the road with my eyes closed
reach the other side safely
and the child who has never known her parents
can smile like the rich men haven’t in years
i think
perhaps there is an oyster here after all

setting the prisoner free

when i finally forgive myself it is night time
and only the streetlights are awake
i run
and for the first time since the starting gun
i move forwards

at the intersection, traffic lights
searing red, but i only accelerate because
there are no cars, the road
swept clean of movement

and then it all falls into place
how the hush lets me believe there is still
something to salvage, i can leave
broken glass on the lip of the sidewalk, return
the next day to find a crystal ball
that fogs like your breath against my skin

and then i read a book i don’t already know
the ending to
believe there is still something left for me
in the unknown, so hold my hand as we lie
on the sand, fingertips millimetres from
where the waves creep to find us
then jump
into the harbour at night
australian summer, 33 degrees

because forgiveness is feeling safe even as
the bush fire turns the corner
onto our street, and finding peace in
the palms of a grenade, promising
to never let my grandmother’s pendant
hang so heavily between my breasts again

knowing that you
are just a dream i will wake up screaming from

taking heart

here we are again
the windows so sealed there could be a solar eclipse
and it would still feel like midnight, beside you
loneliness building company out of your fingers

the air, pregnant with thoughts we keep to ourselves
my body would not let itself fall asleep
pressed against yours, becoming more familiar
with each apple we bite into
suture it together and call it an orchard

but maybe i do not want a love that bites like a fist
through a glass window, sliced cheeks
that hoard a belly of swallowed secrets
and fades like a snowflake against body heat
leaves me to walk home in the morning
a hand-me-down in last night’s dress

tread as gently as this heavy heart will allow
let this weight press your chest cavity hollow
it is 2am and i cannot stop crying
may you always remember the surgeon massaging the heart
aortic blood embracing his latex gloves
may you mistake coming over for coming home
and coming home for starting over

morning glory

when the morning imposes again
i remember feeling glad for the space
on the other side of the bed, wondering how long it can last
like how the daughter waits and is
relieved when her father does not come home
how much easier it is to fall asleep this way

let the respite echo on the face of the businessman’s
rolex, shining 11:11
to the young boy holding his breath
over quivering birthday candles and the young lovers
who drove an hour from the city for a meteor shower

there is a girl on the streets so late we’ll call it dawn
a red balloon tied to left wrist
darling
may you always remember the arsonist who stayed
up all night watering the plants
your mother saying how her father and your grandfather were
two different people

i picture you again at midnight with an i love you
taping your lips shut
then the morning after
over and over
but this time the sun doesn’t rise with your apology
and this time i see myself walking away

i think, how things have changed
how people have changed
and i think i am still growing
god, i hope i am

to jump-start a soul

still thinking there is horizon for this all to end softly
i visit the beach at daybreak
weigh myself into the sand
that the high tide may not sweep smooth instantly

i want to be the first thing the sun sees today
as if in four billion years it has not seen anything more interesting
than a fizzled cut-and-paste job
almost laughable, how hard we try to matter

at night, taking the darker way home
my mother’s warnings strapped like a straitjacket
whispered, tucked behind each ear
but how I miss the way my heart races like it still cares
how similarly our bodies deliver in fear, and in love

the first time i forgive myself for being alone
it is so cathartic
the next time i am left behind
i mistake it for an exorcism

i repent myself into the empyrean

hey universe
give me a memory so warm my body will char if i remember it for too long
show me a journey that stretches so long it may as well be forever

the next time i say i love you
it will be the split second before a gamma-ray burst
i do not want to hear your reply

over the rainbow

tell me, do you ever think of her?

the first time, in red
rusted light grazing her shoulder blades to reign ruby
cheeks veneered sangria wine
rimmed with acetaldehyde
the apples already bitten into
the roses blooming, and you prick your finger
but how it doesn’t hurt, not at all

then the best time, in yellow
and it was dark but oh
how the golden hour folded into her locks
debussy could have written a symphony about this
leconte de lisle, an epic
her laughter, honeyed citrine
pirouetting like young sunflowers

or even the worst time, in blue
robin’s egg-shell eyes cracking, dry
but you could already see how
neptune would stamp down her cheeks
the forget-me-nots severed from your lapel
tossed into the marsh next to p. icarus’ powdered wing
low tide, sapphire smile washed empty

and then the last time, in grey
you wait for it all to fade to monochrome
beg for quits as the thunder climaxes
she lets you, and you leave
her behind, in a cloud that spits
droplets of lead, torrents of stone
you wonder how long she took to make it out from the smoke

maybe she never did
maybe she is still trying to find a colour that doesn’t bleed back to you
somewhere, on the other side of the rainbow

and i think somewhere, tonight
she is thinking of you too

shambles

tell me it was all just for the thrill of it
nothing else
the way he held your hand first
before ever seeing it
and it was late, closer to dawn than
your bedtime, so that
even reality had fallen asleep

how there was daylight, even at 12am
the rain searing steaming skin
hummingbirds swirling like autumn leaves
and there was no space to dance but so much
to pray

he presses his hand against your chest
watches it beat
against a glass door, you blink
flirtation written across your eyelids
and he is reminded
of how close you are to the edge, how easy
it would be
to fall

it hits you like spiked punch the next morning
you, flying
with one helium balloon tied to your wrist
you, falling
with his hand on yours
you, hurling dirty laundry with a detached tongue

come with me
if we abandon enough train tracks we’re bound
to end up somewhere familiar
if there is a road that never ends i’ll whittle it down with you
there is nothing pretty about
a crying girl, ever
no matter how soft, how delicate

just call it a mess and we can start cleaning up
call it quits and we can finally move on – stop
calling

leave a message and i’ll get back to you

 

tell me you enjoyed it in the moment, at least

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

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 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