My eyes have glazed over,
Formed cataract callouses
That blur my vision,
Yet I see you clearly
As I did ten years past
As I did all those years between:
Of lighter days
And narrow hips
And painful experiences
Worthy to be dealt with.
If we’d stood
Shoulder to shoulder
As we ought have,
My vision would have remained
Clear as a cloudless day.
Now, we endure hyenas
Who call themselves sisters,
Convince ourselves they are true
Whilst we endure the space apart.
And when space closes its jaws,
Allowing togetherness once more,
I shall see you
As you are
As I have seen you before.
On smooth stoned shores,
Threw stone jewels
Of fire and clouds
Back into the sea,
Hoped someday the sea would bring us gifts in return
To heal wounds stray bullets have left behind,
Bring companions sailboats had ferried away.
Hoped our lives would not replay its horizons:
Forever rolling back into itself,
Forever caught between conflicts
It never resolves,
Caught between unmade decisions
And murky emotions,
To bittersweet mixed tapes.
I step into its waters,
Hope for enveloping embraces
That wash worries away.
Jelly fish stings
Kiss bare skin,
And I lay seething,
Memory heavy on my limbs.
If I could stay
Watching bewildered waves
Siren laugh at inconsistencies,
Accept paradoxes with ease,
Perhaps wisdom would dawn upon me,
Seagull plummet towards my fish basin chest,
Tell me that love should never lead to regret.
I've been working on this poem for quite some time. The challenge to tell a story in fifty words appealed to me, and I might to it again sometime. For now, this is my contribution to the unattached souls of February 14th.
My life is patterned
Off of paradoxical statements:
Strive for perfection
Though perfection is unattainable.
Settle for nothing less than the best.
Wait for love to arrive
Whilst guarding the gates of your heart–
Shut them tightly against intruders,
Shut them tightly against emotional wars.
I’ve lost the flavour
Of mundane adventures,
Forgotten their candid zest
The same way the elders
Lose the taste of salt on their tongues:
Is easy to walk through.
The road is straight ahead
Dirt crumbles beneath my wrinkled feet,
Reminiscent of yesterdays
Lost in the stream of todays,
Lost in the horizonless descent of somedays.
Some days, the light flickers
And sight is obscured by darkness
Generated by energies lost in space:
Astronaut cries no one has ever received.
My barren branch hands
Claw at the sky,
Forming birds nest homes
That hatchlings shall never inhabit,
Claw at eagle winged counterparts
Ravished by wanderlust,
Become a selfish hero
Cutting feathers for hats
To be worn
Atop shimmering heads
Stripped of protection,
Craving for elusive warmth.
Salt from tongues
Fall down cheeks instead,
Swallow unfamiliar exploits
Told from memory,
Attempt to recall paths
Upon which my eyes have lingered
Before they old-film-reel fade
Into scratchy-spaced forget,
Before cheeks are drenched with salt
For reasons I am unable to recall.
Our lives were always tangent:
A tango of touch and go
With photograph moments
That never seem to fade.
Forward in time,
Down thin jumpers
And loose shirts.
Greedy hands stretch
From the back of my mind,
Rewind cassette tapes back years and years
To whispers exchanged
Across three sided cells,
To eyes wandering past the present,
To eyes watching vague gallops of the future,
Oblivious to their empty pages,
Oblivious to today’s bliss.
You and I
Patched up holes in each others armour
Made by careless words
Yelled from rooftops
By knights and maidens
Too small for the platforms they occupy.
You and I
Lay across intersections
At 3 AM,
Pretend the headlights were comets
And we were spaceships
Lightyear-speed-catapulting through space.
But the next season took you away,
Asteroid-stole you from my core,
And you explored your side of space
Unaware of the patch of grass I’d saved
In the event you’d land back down beside me,
Feel the breeze in your hair again,
Tell me how much larger Orion was from up there.
But we became parallel lines,
Weary from straining,
Forgetting how to pronounce familiar greetings,
Losing each other in shadows of memory,
From where the years have filled us up
With new holes
We’ve learned to patch up
With hollow hands
Meant for holding,
Used for hiding.
For twirling telephone lines,
For hesitating over keypad letters,
For the backspace.
For the backspace:
Days of carefree laughter
And nonexistent ‘apart’s,
When we dreamt of free roads
And bare feet.
Days when hands were used
Evening arrives the way it always does,
Shoves the door open
Amidst suspended apartment dust,
Drifts through my bedroom window
With news of comets
Transporting space messages
From eons away.
I hear the neighbours yell and argue,
And pretend they’re croaking toads
Professing love to potential mates
Instead of animosity,
Or variants of hate.
The hum of the traffic below
Transforms into cricket lullabies,
Evaporates from concrete swamps
That rarely run dry.
I try not to dream
Of babbling brooks
And rolling hills.
I try to stay present,
Shove the pangs of discontent from my chest,
Lie to make today more bearable,
Lie to get closer to tomorrow
Where perhaps I’ll travel
To seasides and coasts,
Envelope myself in their salty wind embraces.
With my arms buried in wool,
And my heart fortified with stone
To firefly coves
Far away from city lights
To make me believe
In all I’ve lost
Before I slip
Back into compact homes
Boasting more gold than fire,
Allow the sleepless night below
To sing me to sleep.
Christmas is right around the corner, and I hardly know how to feel or what to write or what to do with all this time during the term holidays.
I've managed to write a (semi-)cheerful poem for the occasion.
Our family's had an unconventional way of celebrating Christmas these past few years. I suppose growing up does change the way these occasions are handled within the household. Family, however, always comes first.
And above all, the love of all things dearest to our hearts.
Hopefully the season's hustle and bustle does not draw us away from what (or Whom) we gratefully celebrate on Christmas.
Amongst chocolate bars
And torn wrappers,
He folds his paws
The way proper pups do
When their masters
Centre their joys
On forgettable prizes,
Waits his turn
The way desirable pups do:
Amongst candy wrappers
In favour of more glamorous presents.
On warm hearths
Are emptied of their contents,
And sleepy faces
Are filled to the brim
With smiles and cheer
Until the next morning
When crumbs remain
In place of cookies
The big fat North Pole myth
Had “gobbled down,”
And a proper pup
Gets his Christmas cheer:
And short attention spans
That remind him
Of all he holds dear.
The end of the tunnel
Lit you up like a Christmas tree.
Your hollow eyes healed
Back to the first day
You witnessed the lamp lights
Illuminate the street.
You were Peter Pan:
Forgetting about shadows
That still linger in my memory,
Flying to a Neverland
You’d made up in your daydreams.
You lit up
The way aeroplanes do
When they flash blinking starlight signals
And plummet towards the sea,
Touchdown on runways
Welcoming them home.
But the round trip distance
Was enough to alter your view of familiar places
Your heavy feet automatically brought you to.
The sky is no longer the same shade of blue,
Neither the morning as lively as you expected.
The end of my tunnel
Was your open armed embrace
Taking me back to summertime,
Back to sleeveless tops
Keeping burning skin alive,
Tear stained faces
Mourning for dreams
That died before the Autumn leaves fell,
Before nature pronounced them dead.
The end of my tunnel
Was open space aimless,
A single barren tree in the forest,
Your hoarse voice whispered
“It’ll be okay,”
But the leaves of our favourite fire tree
Let go of its flames
As Winter arrived.
Carrie Rudzinski, one of my absolute favourite spoken word poets sent out this tweet a few days ago: "Witnessing a really boring first date in a coffee shop is really sad but at least they found each other."
And thus, in a completely roundabout way, this poem was born.
With steaming cups
Cradled in crater clasped hands.
Two bodies amongst others
Before other tables
Facing other people
Fancying other people.
On our left,
A man lends his shoulder
As a girl cries crystalline gemstones
She’d kept inside her for too long.
Even precious treasures
Can weigh heavy against the soul.
So she sheds
Off like snakeskin,
Hoping to gain a lighter load.
On our right,
A man licks his lips nervously
As stuttering confessions pull themselves from his throat.
Silence is heard
More clearly than words
When his answer comes
In the form of a resounding no.
Affection cannot be shed
As easily as clothing.
It is deeply embedded
Underneath thick skin,
We eventually call mistakes.
And you and I,
Wondering which we’d be
If we ever were
You and me.
I am beginning to realise how intensely one person can affect another. Compounded with that idea, I am also beginning to realise how fragile one can become once overcome with affection.
It seems terrifying, and I wonder why the business of attraction is so messy. I've been wondering why attraction exists despite good sense. It seems so, incredibly, illogical.
And yet it is warm and desirable.
Peripherally relevant to that, there's a quote from the film Interstellar I've been dwelling on lately.
"Love isn't something we invented. It's observable, powerful, it has to mean something."
When I was younger, Mum would tell me
To steer clear of the breakable glass,
Go play with soft pillows that flop when thrown.
We only had so much plates and mugs in the house.
But I broke far too many plates anyway,
By scampering through the house unsupervised,
Allowed mirrors to slip through my tiny fingers,
Allowed light to scatter on the floor
Like crystal fragments the stars forgot to pick up.
And I would stand perfectly still
In the centre of shattered starlight,
Knowing that cut glass would not stay clear forever,
Knowing my veins would stain it red.
I learned to temper my touch,
Holdfast the blue porcelain,
But not tight enough to crush.
Hold things like you do the bow of your violin:
Gravity is greedy,
The earth pulls down anything remotely heavy.
The weight of a word
--Love for example--
To send entire atmospheres
Plummeting down to the ground.
Hold it the way you hold your crisp paged books:
Like the text had surfaced from Alexandria’s lost library,
Like you’re holding the very last copy.
With light fingers,
I learned to hold my heart.
Fragile are the parts we keep hidden,
The parts we realised could shatter when broken.
So, please, be patient
Fragile are we
Suspended in between my dreams and reality.
I wish we could collide so fiercely
The way giant gas clouds are pulled together by gravity,
To form brilliant suns
That illuminate rivers,
Cause them to laugh
And splash waves onto embankments.
I wish we could collide so fiercely,
But I would explode in plumes of Helium,
Shatter into a million incoherent pieces
Into a being who is not me.
So, please, be patient
If the concept of ‘we’ should even exist,
‘We’ are volatile hearts:
Gunpowder stored underneath a furnace.
We could collide,
But I’d rather we slip slowly into each others palms:
Parts of ourselves we never knew we wanted
Until we’d caressed its delicacy at the tips of our fingers.
Patience is, perhaps, the longest road we’d tread,
But I know not another course of action.
I’m not used to taking things anywhere,
My pace is as slow as a coma patient’s response,
My hesitation is the acknowledgement
That ‘we’ fall under the category of ‘fragile things,’
I know that life has its own gravity,
And I don’t want to be too greedy
Lest we shatter
Like crystal fragments
Or falling stars
That stain red from our veins.
To say it has been a bad week would do injustice to the chaos that has engulfed my mind these past six days.
I wish I could claim that writing helped...
But I can't.
Not this time.
Some weeks, I type in lines that mean absolutely nothing to me. Thus, I scribbled this poem down out of frustration.
I start loading the page
With plotline bullets
Only to shoot blanks
That create nothing
The stories I tell
Are meant to leave imprints
Upon otherwise moving targets,
But I am unable to tell them,
My mind is empty,
A series of ragged uptakes
I am a storyteller
With a blank piece of paper,
Reading scribbles and notes
That form sentences and thoughts,
Cohesive paragraphs that make up plots,
But none worth telling.
I sit quietly,
Gun blanks at the walls,
In the hopes that a bullet would connect properly,
And that I can take up my post
As a storyteller
With books in hand
Instead of random pieces of paper.
I scribble down
Handwritten grocery lists:
Alien invasion things to do,
Shooting star wishes to buy,
I scribble down
To get through long, fleeting days.
1. Get up and try not to fall back to sleep
2. Get up after falling back to sleep
3. Get up to snooze the alarm
4. Get up to the snoozed alarm
I scribble down
Long winding lists
In the hope that one day I’ll get it right.
1. Decide what I want in life
2. Decide what I really want in life
3. Stop changing my mind about what I want in life
My pens are now hollow tubules,
Memories of lists
I basketball free throw shot in the trash,
And my eyes are aeroplane air dry
From deciphering letters in the dark,
Hoping to find riddles
Hidden from the light.
We step into wardrobe worlds
And find breadcrumbs in the forest
That lead us to riverbeds
Where we skip flat stones
And dream of solace.
You divulge your secrets,
Whisper the words
The way the sun sets:
With streaks of colour
That match the beating of my heart.
I divulge my dreams,
As if you were soft powdered snow
Freshly fallen upon my face,
A canvas my hands can form elaborate snow castles with.
But the ground
Drags us back from our secret passageway,
And our blooming garden withers before us
As hot air growls against our cheeks
Leaving tiger breath patches on our skin.
I watch the glass towers
Strip us of our souls,
And program our bodies to walk their streets.
But they forget to program our eyes,
And though I shouldn’t,
I watch as our feather light ghosts
Hang from the highest peak
Like white flags fluttering in the wind.
They dare us to surrender,
But your hot air balloon limbs carry us upward,
And we scale their glass towers,
Claim the ghosts we always were,
And float away
Until we walk on clouds.
The older I grow, the more I realise that many of life's questions do not have definitive answers. More often than not, they're questions that float about in space, and I shoot answers at them with the hopes that I've gotten it right somehow. Certainty is rarely the aim anymore. That's hardly what I often hope to accomplish. Rather, it is the courage amidst uncertainty which I wish to embody. I suppose that's more than I could ever hope to achieve in this lifetime, or the next.
Here it is: the last poem of the Cityscape collection.
I scribble down answers
To non-existent questions,
Gulp them down with water,
Drown myself in peaceful solitude,
Intoxicate myself with pitch black nothingness
That drinks bestow so eagerly.
Like liquid nitrogen,
They smokes up my throat,
And I puff white clouds out again.
The cold winds echo
In my hollow soul,
Asking to be satiated
With fenestrane windows,
Asking for light
The sky cannot give
After receiving my white cloud puff gifts.
Asking for light
Called up from distant glances of memory,
Sparks that have long since died down.
My lungs fill up with water,
And exponentially grow my answers,
But they do not fill my hollow holed soul,
Not when they only ever pass through.
Solid brick will find its way
Down the path I’ve hidden so well
To fill the gaping space
Oblivious to matter.
Perhaps the lingering question
I’ve repressed with metal locks
Shall emerge presently
To coax in the puzzle piece that fits
Once rust licks the strength off the chains.
Perhaps if I’d swallowed more oxygen,
My questions would emerge faster,
But my hands drift to carbonated soda cans
And shrug off the rust that has crusted,
And fortify chain after chain.
It's been a while, but here's the almost but not really last poem of Cityscape. I've always had a fondness for paradoxes, and this poem is filled with them. The idea of being right next to a person and yet feeling as if they're miles away intrigues me. The detachment is all too common, and yet there seems to be no solution...
On plastic platform stages
That sit hundreds of people on weekend games.
Today, we’re the only bodies there.
The coral paint I’d smudged against his cheek
Is long gone,
But he smirked
As if he hadn’t rubbed it off.
And he smirked,
Dropping another coin
Into one of my piggy bank lockers
Labelled with his name in bold black letters,
The piggy bank lockers
That fuel the cyclist of my chest,
Pumping blood through the streets
That branch out through my body.
It pumps to by brain,
And I feel wings sprout from my plantation back,
But his butterfly wings
Flutter for someone else
In tighter jeans
And higher food chains,
And I am the dragonfly pest,
The kind farmers perfume with pesticide,
The kind kids lock up in a bottle,
The kind that kids don’t punch air holes for.
On his plastic platform stage
With the sun casting his shadow
Across the grass stadium lake.
My eyes wink at the sun,
And its orange gaze propels my shadow
Next to the one with bird’s nest hair
Our shadow selves swing with the clouds,
Hands centimetres away,
The way maple leaves never seem
To touch their neighbours.
I remember the chicken wishbone from last Easter,
And make my wish three months late,
But I’m still here,
As far from him
As the sand and the sea.
He’ll be standing
On foreign platform stages,
His shadow swinging
And I will believe
That wishbone wishes come true,
When the sea strand no longer separates white from blue.