Thoughts in Summer/Winter
I’ve borrowed a smirk from Tracy Emin. Older now, the summer flowers don’t melt my heart as they did at 27. If you were here I would do things differently.
But don’t we all say that? He crumples my touch, throws it to the corner next to the bin where a condom hangs like a man lynched
even at 7am in Wollongong the heat is a thief’s hand to the mouth. It is summer here, you’ve gone back to Nanjing.
Work is slow and I spent my last $10 on condoms – priorities. I cool myself with the breath of my lover and wonder
if you’re walking in the snow with her, it is winter there. Xiu Ling told me she was pregnant. You’d make a terrible father.
You’d think my smirk was typical white-girl coarseness. Always with the off-hand comments – white women fuck anyone. White women are rough.
That summer I was desperate for love in a yellow dress, blueberry beads, we held hands and hot chips by the lighthouse, at Christmas I wrapped brie in prosciutto
and made you wear that reindeer nose, we swapped presents, I bought you cologne, you bought me a stuffed toy. I was disappointed. I asked too much of you.
I tried to learn Mandarin but gave up. You tried to teach me but asked me to repeat phrases to your friends without telling me what they meant – I didn’t trust you.
Shen Yun said he overheard you with the boys likening my breasts to tofu, imitating the wobble – that was enough.
I hope she finds out you turned up in a taxi, drunk and tearful the night before your 6am flight. When you forced a kiss on me, called me your best girl.
I hope she sees the immaturity. You pose genteel in a too small tux, she’s a slender vision in your engagement photos.
She looks bright and young. She has the smile of a woman who adheres to expectations but maybe that’s the point.
Letter to an Iraqi Physicist
not quite a gentleman but in your own mind
buoyant, a DIY high-brow daydream in designer
collared shirt and loafers, taxied everywhere
by a sense of importance, oyster with a pearl
of impatient wildness, too good to be bohemian
too rich to be bourgeois
I feel you will not die but dissolve like salt
only to crystallise somewhere else, reborn in sun
perhaps blonde and not Iraqi but Finnish and still
constructing the same classical altar to yourself
turning in the incense of your own superiority
bowing to disinfectant, too clean to be relaxed
too intelligent to be self-aware.
science holds many things but tenderness
is not one of them. Kidnapped by your fear
of disease, you shut yourself off from common people
without knowing that common people still love
with all of themselves, common people still breathe
your air and deserve your kindness. O Gentleman
how do you not see
the fool you make of yourself
more than the fool you make of me.
Australian autumn gum trees don’t lose their colour
perhaps they knew you or saw your stubbornness
about letting go and will hold in all that green like a breath
I don’t know, I’ve never asked them or you but sat
in awe at your refusal to cave in to cancer chipping
away at you like a sphinx nose, turning yellow in your last days
as your liver struggled to keep up with your bull-headed
grip on life. You fell eventually like a leaf falls
I refused to see your last breath, I said my goodbyes
like a child with hopes of Jesus miracles
but I knew. I imagine you in the garden of lost souls
snubbing the afterlife to haunt the grave attendants about their
improper manual handling skills or poor personal presentation
Gum trees shed their bark as they grow and I have studied
all I can from your diaries but read again just to be sure
postcards from Denmark and short raw poems
there was an admirer but he lost out to our grandfather
because he was too shy to ask you for a date
I think my siblings would be different, if you were
still here. I think you would be proud of Shaela’s painting
and Willow’s flair for mechanics. Maybe Joseph wouldn’t
drink so much. Perhaps you would share your poems with me
and I wouldn’t have to steal them from the family records
hiding them in borrowed books and reciting them like a spell.
for M. Nin
Spring rain and JB on beige chinos. Leggy millennials squawk in the disco lit windows. I am young in face and old in dissatisfaction. My amaretto sour served without egg whites, too much orange rind is always a problem. I suck the cherry and try and tie the stem with my tongue – I was never that kind of woman. Waiting for my lover in the corner under the heater and birdcaged bare bulbs, the bar is honey-thick with noise and that lawyer from Market St with a name like Ryan or Brian or Sean or Cheyne, is drunk (constantly), and he’s punching above his weight again with the blonde in the middle, always the blondes. He thinks blonde equals gullible but she crosses her legs at him. I’ve bitten my tongue more than once on the topic of his 90’s spiked hair – frosted tips. He quotes Bruce Lee incorrectly and adds his spin on the severity of climate change and I want to mock his hair and correct him but he’d recognise me and then where would we be? Spring rain and beige chinos. Or the last thing we spoke of before the rape joke and the spilled drink and all that mistaken identity business, so I hide in this swamp of crocodiles and parrots, until your arms come and lift me in a hug. He looks with something like recognition, turns, and tells the one about the Jew and the German.
One is not born a woman, one becomes one.