Tide & other poems



That morning in spring I’d thought
I was at peace. To think of you and walk
past without pain. This evening the moon
rose above the treeline. I stepped into
the garden – sharp, clean air. Autumn.

The same moon, but changed. Light
gives rise to shadow. Inside the house
the lamps burned bright. I crossed
the mirror and saw all my selves – I am
meant to hold their gaze unflinchingly.


August, Pomelo

The pomelo is not a grapefruit.
My father tells me of the cashier
who did not know this. He unbags
his prize, smells it – ripe, sharp –

and hands it to me. It is heavy
in my palm, which means the fruit
is juicy. My father watches me
take the knife to the pomelo.

This is one of his lessons.
Decide where pith meets flesh.
Cut the top off. Make eight
evenly-spaced incisions all around

the curve. Drop the knife.
With your thumb, press firmly
into the pith, and prise it
from the flesh. Repeat.

Raw globe of naked fruit.
Crescent segments. Pinch at
the membrane, peel it apart.
Teardrop pearls, citrus heart.



Wrap whole sweet potatoes,
skin on, in foil. Place among
the embers of coals – long after

the chicken wings and satay
have run out: the tender, orange
flesh of the kumera – steaming

in the night air, smoky skin
peeled off in strips. One winter,
in Kunming, ascending the path

to the Dragon’s Gate, a woman
standing watch over an oil drum.
Scent of sweet potatoes cooking –

men devouring its meat by the roadside.
In the war it was all that would grow
in the gardens, fertilised by shit.

I ask my mother for rice porridge
boiled with kumera. This thin gruel:
the bright, cubed gifts of our survival.



image credit: Christopher Phillips

Eileen Chong

Author: Eileen Chong

Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet. Her books are Burning Rice (2012), Peony (2014) and Painting Red Orchids (2016), all from Pitt Street Poetry. She has shortlisted for the Anne Elder Award 2012, the Prime Minister's Literary Award 2013 and the Victorian Premier's Literary Award 2017, among others. Her next book, Another Language (2017), is in the Braziller Series of Australian Poets with George Braziller in New York City. eileenchong.com.au