in silence

Category: Poetry

i don’t know how to finish this

it’s just another AA meeting, where we confess
to schools and colleges like they are our war medals
for it was a bloodbath, and we are the victors and
everybody knows – it is the victors who write history

the ride home

8.55 pm and the lights are still on over the worksite.
A constructed day, time running
tangent to the parabolic rise and fall of dusk and light.

There, noon is a fluorescent light switch drowning
out the sleepy glow of the moon.

Their faces are ghosts between sheets of zinc
and cold lamp posts. In silence, one rides out
to a dorm where he drowns,
again, no longer by a devouring light

but by a darkness that speaks
of erasure, a city that speaks of disdain.

when the bus ride wasn’t long enough

Your infant hands were matches in the palms
of strangers, the salvation of a 6 p.m. journey home,
a child so full of his own goodness you left traces
of it on the seat covers, handrails, (guardrails) circling
those returning to dinner two days old in the refrigerator.

In between the sounds of an aching bus stumbling
its way back home, drowning out voices of foreign men
and women whispering chaos and sweet nothings in our
ears, I found my shivering breath reborn within your laughter.

viking ships

I wind record tapes around my finger, the ones
we used to listen to as kids. The ones that built a lulling
soundtrack to days of swinging between cracked leather sofas,
the ones that now embrace patches of white fungus blooming
across their dusty blacks.

These days I lie along our sofa that has grown a new set of
arms. They no longer need to be trained to curve around toddling spines,
the cracked leather having disintegrated into the spaces, a growing
network running itself thin, the searching lines charting
the distance that has since grown between us.

The first line runs straight from the drowsy darkness on my
side of the earth to the breaking daylight on yours, stretching
vertically, pulling itself thin. A second line runs horizontally,
wrapping its arms around coast after coast of salt stained shorelines,
searching its way through miles and miles of endless sea.

Sister, I call you, a voice diving down into the shipwreck
you threw me under when I was 6 and you were 10.
“Sit at the ends! You feel the rocking less up there!”
You pulled me up into the Viking ship, gleaming, suspended by a huge
white crane – I was small and my legs were jittery. I screamed so hard
they had to stop the Viking mid-ride and let me off. The ship sat 18 people.
3 per row 3 rows on each side. A large ship for a small girl.

But this is my sister. She will throw me on a Viking ship with only
my hands to build an escape boat. She will throw me under the shipwreck,
leave me a life jacket, and then cast me off to fend for myself.
When my life jacket shoves me against planks of broken wood,
I will fight to breathe, gasping for air siphoned through grains of wood.
When my lips turn blue she will feed me an oxygen tube
that is also a ticking time bomb.

There will be no heroine hacking through the wood, there is only
enough air for me to fill my chest with hope, trembling
with the resonance of her voice, giving me the strength to
kick through the wreckage again. These days
the gasps of air are harder to come by.

We now find ourselves connected by oceans that our childhood
Viking ship would never have dared to cross. Their coasts and reefs
build us momentary homes across the Indian Ocean, the
North Atlantic Ocean, bodies of water over which our postcards
of reassuring breath find themselves flitting over.

On the last postcard she sent me lived a tiny floundering fish, picked up
along a reef in the Atlantic. Its gills are an adaptation I have not yet mastered.
Even thousands of kilometers away, my sister has found a way to remind me
I should never stop learning new ways to breathe.

the bull’s new ring

White gold through my ear as a silver hoop
through a bull’s nose. A hoop that links animal
to master, to be chained upon a binding staff,
kept at arms’ length but kept, nonetheless.

In months, the white gold piercing built its crusty
gold sibling around the loss in my ear, a defence
mechanism, resistance, escape, as days of forgotten
sterilisation dripped past, and past, and past.

The cavern of exposed treasure felt itself collecting
behind the crevices of my ear, a constant reminder of
failed attempts flitted by. Every effort to wipe the slate
clean left me feeling like a tomb raider, an insider –

Guilt grew not because the gold was someone
else’s to own but because of the screams that
sounded with each layer of infection scraped away,
a familiar voice gasping to be released.

Perhaps, when the bull pierced not her nose but her
ears, the staff that fell around her was not wielded
by another to keep her away but grown from the
shuddering bones in her body, a plea, to own herself.

-…-.–.

I write you upon palms upturned, the
lines building a network, the scratches a map
you will spend years tracing your fingers across.

When you hold her hand, read the messages
I have left behind for you. Morse code slipped
between sweaty fingers – every squeeze
a dot, every adjustment a dash.

Our palms still remember the poetry we shared
between them – the first line written on an october
evening, script penned between tentative scribbles.

When I walk in cities of strangers, I find myself
reaching amongst them, a word hidden among
every handshake, hoping that the imprints I leave
will once again be recognised by your foraging hands

star charts

When I was four, I believed I was immortal. Or rather, when I was four I believed six was the age of infinity. And that is why my email address is rachel_xxxx6@hotmail.com – four year old me had thought ahead. “When I am six, it’ll be exactly my age”. I clearly never thought I’d grow up.

But I did. I grew up to learn to stand with my tummy tucked in, toes pointed, every inch of my seven year old self straining for perfection that was never really in me. I grew up gazing at my ballet teacher through a faltering telescope. Every star that followed the other faded slowly into oblivion along her freckled earlobes, her piercings tracing a constellation in the milky way. Because when you are so small, everything looks so big.

As I strained my neck to reach for the single constellation I began plotting the pathway of my life about it. I wonder if you can plot a graph of every light that has been in your life from your birth till now. That first flood of light that takes you whole as you swim out of your mother’s womb, I cannot remember it, it doesn’t count.

The second is the yawn of day crawling through foreign blinds in a country where the sun wakes at 4 am instead of 7. The third the fireflies that evade me by dancing through trees that at 14, I had forgotten how to climb. The fourth lightning as it cast its blistering shadow over the thinning plastic as we watched the silhouette of yesterday’s laundry fly off our tent.

Can we plot a graph that traces the fireflies, the blistering nights and everything in between? I am only searching for a thread that will bind me to the constellations I’ve been tracing since my birth. Because with the stars running further and further away from us, their trails turning redder and redder in their wake, my eyes can only mirror the star trails as I chase after their shadows in the dark. Physicists tell us that when an object moves further away from you, it’s light grows increasingly red.

All I can tell you is that as birth moves further and further away from me, my light is burning out.

orbiting

I read the obituaries from over my mother’s shoulder.
Something about the way the lady smiled
at me through the pages was vaguely familiar ; I
found myself tracing the lines that her nose,
eyebrows, eyes, made across the rectangle, mapping out
the curve of her smile against the patterns of her skin.

I hear myself telling my mother –
“She looks like she was very pretty when she was young”

– “We are all pretty when we are young”

copper is an excellent conductor of electricity

Run that copper through your mouth
one more time – that’s it, nice and tight.
The taste is almost familiar, Iron is no
stranger to my palate.

But today, copper is on the menu
Aujourd’hui, copper est l’entrée,
le plat principal et le dessert.
Today, I am copper
Today, I am copper filled

Chemistry Lesson 101: Properties of Copper
a. ductile; can be easily shaped and fed through your veins like the blood never ran there
b. tough; one of the cheapest and strongest materials for making a weapon
c. non-magnetic; not of much use here but I suppose it’d be nice if you got lost in a scrapyard
d. an excellent conductor of electricity –

Are you sure you’ve got it tight right there?
Oops, looks like I forgot to turn on the switch!

say my name

I look down to find pieces of myself forming an island around me.
“shit, what have I done”
You see, when I’m nervous (or bored), occasionally both and
on occasion neither, I have this habit. I peel away layers of dead skin
from my body. From the soles of my feet, the callouses on my fingers
that patch on my knee. 

I don’t know what I’m searching for. 

I peel away the parts of me that are well-worn, earth torn, 
love scorned. I dig my fingernails into tissue towers that no
longer whisper my name. Some days if I dig hard enough,
there is pain. Mostly, there is just skin. 

I keep searching, searching for a reason to do it, searching
for a reason to stop. I never find it. But I have learnt that when skin
leaves our bodies, it hardens. It curls ever so slightly, stiffening
as it reins itself in,

like paper drying out after a night in the rain. 

 

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