Skin and bone
Held together by fine strands of tissue. Empty at an atomic level. Spinning, accelerating. An integrity guaranteed by physics, society. Individually apart, the same. Organic. Psychological complexity, false complexity.
Sticking on wet. Expected signs of
Learn a language in high school
Watch anime without subtitles
For hours the colours made sense
discordant against a backdrop
In a stationary atmosphere
The edge of my body has no end
I spoke as a child
Abandoned in silent recollections
right? In worn expressions.
I read that in space
As their muscles atrophy
hard-shell. The freedom in
Will unmake us
through barbed wire hanging in camps.
Running for kilometres
Body aches and sweats
I chose to endure
tight below the surface. Tearing.
Bleached in sunlight.
White ground powder
In a white ground bread
This for the white giant
through the surface. Hard,
Crouched over a computer
Work related injuries
Push ribs out against each other
Unfailing frames of
You always forget
Walls of skulls
War and occupation
A sound cracking under weight.
A sucking sound
Of the contents removed
From the intellect
Bloodied in tight passageways, unable to find a
I watched a documentary
A man drilled into his own head
Trapped in the white bone
Stripped of identity
Your recourse is singular
forgotten within the physicality.
Recognising your own self
You hope don’t lie
From events, history, relationships
I try to claim as my own
A faux static
In calm control
The shadow of unconsciousness. Echoing in empty rooms.
My sister says
In winter your breath
Is like dragon smoke
Where the monkeys watched the cat
Days diluted among many others
Difficult pieces of remembrance pushed under
Here and there
Skin and bone
of skin, leaking emotions.
* * *
unprotected sex –
we conceive a girl
early morning –
are the birds kissing
full moon –
between her teeth
we set fire to a pillow
giving the gift her other fist closed
just married –
my hands dance
under the tap
holding my newborn –
curry in her face
I stand before you a nautch girl.
i walk with too much rhythm in my hips too much longing in my lips
when i stand still i’m dancing inside
i danced outa the womb and i’ll dance back
when the flames of my cremation dance over my flesh the final duet
dispossessed from my temple torn down
relic relic relic
they stole my dance when they destroyed the stone temples
cut the breasts off the goddess decapitated the gods
turned the land into one giant plantation
i have no name, only what they told me
with this lean brown body i twist and shake
leap and lie, bend and flow, contract and release
movement rippling through my body like water
a monsoon of rage and beauty as i dance the dance of destruction
stamping through the white cement the brown earth rises up to meet my feet i fight
the white the light the might
with the grace and love and rage that can only come
from a nautch girl
* * *
Departure terminal again.
Fractional boundary condition
a muted journey home.
Just going back up to Hong Kong
for a week or two, back in time
for exams. They never notice I’m gone.
Ticking the box
“visiting friends or family”:
a dynamic splayed over continents,
for the fourth time this year.
A passenger fails to show and their seat is forfeit.
Hasty transition to passport control
still shunts me to economy at the gate.
Australian airspace is drafted dissected as
time reverts to ETA.
Fractures are plotted in miles while
thoughts of home reverse.
Chek Lap Kok
in timed doses.
The plane circles
like a cat curling for sleep.
They built this island
– neither land nor sea nor air –
a perfect Ur-space.
property law evolves, so
even the sea has no proprietary rights
Rifts are as tonal as boundaries
The plane is purged
borderlines are drawn anew.
Passport promises an access point,
but there is incredulity among the Perth ranks
when I join the Chinese line.
Eyes prod the back of my neck, pinning ambiguity.
Some benevolent Aussie sidled up to me once, tapped my
shoulder and leaned in close:
“do you know that’s the Chinese queue?”
Her voice was good clean sympathy. I said yes, thanks,
that’s the point. She didn’t hang around.
Identity on the margins of filing
recognises few porous expressions.
The Airport Express is instant coffee,
an artificial high seasoned with sweet-bitterness.
Liquid fixation thrums
progress as thirty-two minutes away
the peak fidgets,
fortified by apartment blocks,
rows of concrete teeth.
I think I have forgotten
the new combination for the door,
frustration pegs itself in place
as I plod towards dilemma.
My suitcase snags on patched tarmac.
The pavement sinks and arches
as if for breath,
recreating tar pits of old:
walking is a jigsaw process.
Home looms on the corner,
and the man at the door smiles recognition,
taps the code before I can try.
Mailbox is full of slogans, English and Chinese
hawking their wares,
but egalitarian disdain tosses all to the bin.
Forty-seven levels above traffic,
the mired moon sulks between skyscrapers.
I watch it sink,
apportioning a new timetable
and wondering what was left behind.
* * *
Phu My Orphanage
a heat wave through us
gathering in blessing time
waiting for the paint to dry
to mark out horizons
a window to look out upon
where the sky is washed gray
I have gathered up my own children
into the wind
to rise up
on a breath of day
as kites sail
their bowtie tails
twirl like a prayer on a string
no dust just horizons
a head in the clouds
as the street rattles
what is it we have gathered
in the twinkling nursery night
gathering hold of the night rinsing out the electricity
on the quivering street
at the newness of every turn
I am amazed humbling in that soft
shoe rhythm through uneven streets
to the sparrow mouths of children
& there is something in the limbs
at angles to the day that has meaning
I raise the spoon & the rhythms
of food & harvest
sowing what it is that needs
to be done
& there is always politics
we rinse bowls with the names of the hungry
it should be this simple
a child & hunger
& a bowl
with someone to feed
her or him
as the sun
would bring light & throw
a field into bloom
as the night would bring
a blanket over us
in the rattling cool
at the end of the day
show a little grace
the limb touch kiss of elbows
as the spoon is lifted
to sparrow open mouth child
some days are white
like paint to hold the sun to the walls
all the shadows grow
a tiredness in the limbs
we breathe the new light
all this & more at the end of the day
between where the ocean
ends & the sky begins
a gentle sway
rhythm blue tide pool pulls hearts
here the day has wings
as children have hunger
their arms thrown back in fright
in the late afternoon tropic cool
a chaos of students sit
to write their story
the baby sits quiet
the slow rhythms of games
feeding in the rattling afternoon
a cloud bumps a tree
in the laughter filled day
waterfall stepping stones
into the deep
then the long step back
coffee in the crackling heat
later much later
one beer in
Rex Hotel Rooftop Beer Garden