The House


The House


The parlour, the basement –
these rooms where we lived
and died. Voice of the father

from beyond the grave.
Tremulous, static. Memory
is human. Recall, imperfect.

Words are lies: letters can be
sifted; prints, lifted. Tessellated
tiles chipped at the threshold.

Bring it into the light. Let the sun
decide. Everything burns at the end.
Let us consume. Our hunger, unsated.


Metalwork, lattice. Corrugated iron.
The clock strikes three. The four faces
of the wind. At the centre, only ice.

Luminous strips, their flicker
some language unpicked. Each
is a copy of another – no one

remembers the first, the mother.
Perhaps we all sprung forth
at the same stroke – the bell,

the hammer, the arm. Cast
and hung. A stone strikes flesh.
Blood stains: crimson snow.


You cannot escape this.
Turn down the volume –
the mouths still mime.

In Chinatown a man lived
for eight months without light
or power: he couldn’t read.

A one-room flat, a thin woven mat.
Folding table for a kitchen.
Painted tin thermos. His life

in plastic bags. In the evenings he scoops
and pours water over himself. The trough
is cracked and will never fill.

Find out more about Eileen Chong as part of QPF2017 here.

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.