(Writers @ Work Contest Winner, selected by Paisley Rekdal)




Smaller than I imagined. Red, like a shock,

and unapologetic. Bright pear

fallen from the body, mistaken rock

that got taken in. I think of the new

life it contains, growing without air,

wonder if I was just as deadly. A few

hours later nothing left but the bare

photo. What home imagines its holocaust,

after all? Some things you work your way through

without knowing, or asking about the cost.


At twelve, I first learnt a star’s residue:

how our sun will burn into blowsy drift,

carried away by nothing. If others—lost—

come after us, chasing our distant Doppler shift,

they’ll find nothing: your name’s been crossed

and signed under. Today the sun’s a pill

of stupid brilliance. In the photo the two fists

of the ovaries are clenched but still.

So much dead weight: how you managed to lift

and console the soft blood’s load I do not know.






This is an accounting: the weekends have lined up, holidays
are flushed with pastel colour. A day’s a whole brave inch,


though everything in it you might rub out with a finger.

Over here a hotel corridor so ugly a man’s body, crawling


down it, resolves into a sack of bare pity.

Here the whine and shudder of a plane’s engine


which is also a god, falling silent over the ocean’s expanse.

Here a child buried in the remains of a building


punctured by a missile laden with good purpose

which is also the drowsy wimple of a backyard sign.


Here my mother’s face, burning, and all but quiet.

Here a bullet composing a path though the shoulder, the


ribcage, the femur, crying for the music to continue.

Here myself emerging in a storm of noise and pain,


not having asked to happen, and receiving it.

Here a boat bleached blood-white and gaping like


a fish, having lost its anchor at the port of origin.

Here my father, whose love was lodged like


a complaint in his throat.

It was pointed out to me that there are many ways


to shuffle a deck of grief. My question was

was what thing supervened over


broken tendernesses, what common factor

or iron fact—as in the ploughing of the days’


many possible orders, when things are worn down.




Sonnet Above Water


Unasked-for, lying against my jarred heart,

you push the door open, steer the tremor of my wrist

back into my spine, where the movement starts.

The path outside flees into water, so first


we fumble for the boat that sits beside the pier,

fingers nearly numb, making the best of the poor light.

If at some point the ocean, thinking better of us, should appear

we’ll nose our craft into the big night


sewing the water shut behind us.

The delta widens with new compassion;

the sails lie their slack faces over the city, thus

making us invisible.

                                     For this while,

at least, we are nothing more than an impression,

disappearing with the tide.

                                                 We’ll find our own isle.




Suburban Patrol


Coming here requires that I arrange my face into vicarious

expressions, forms that come from somewhere else and only

complexly express heartbreak, if at all. I will allow feeling to

pass through my body without censure, in the manner of love

which once my father expressed to my mother by quoting, O

light of my life, fire of my something, etcetera. A tap is left open,

running out into grass which surges against blacktop, in open

mimicry of the soul’s ordinary modes. Light crawls over

the skin of cars like nebulae, they put out parallel fifths with

tadpole tails: this is how I remember them. How beautiful

beyond understanding, how necessary given the acres of emotion I

rationalized as asphalt. Touching them as a child I recognized

their genius as overwhelming physicality, since here you never

heard other people’s arguments or their love-making, even my

addled grief was reduced into kerbs and abutments, play-dates

into sundries of chain-link and noise barriers. I learnt to drive

here but dared to take only right turns for months, noticing that

roads waited to give me time (just patience, nothing rising to 

affection necessarily). I recognized the things which made a day

a good one for doing the wash. Now I imagine how a Predator or

Reaper could glide right among us, or just above the roofs,

broadcasting objectless benevolence. Kissing babies and women

on the mouth. Now they say Asians are moving in like Kuzdu, they

say my heart has bloomed into a temple standing in alien water,

they say there are things coming.

                                                            This I do not believe, since

what arrives is pushed back again by tides of tremulous Wi-Fi.

Observe the autumnal cutlery drying out, phthalo blue of sneakers,

unfinished symphony of sauce curdling in the pan, new voices,

hoodie which gloms the crumpled regions of the mind. If this

is to change there must be more than new grief, new people,

new government. Women speak this too on sun-warmed patios;

men nurse rude mowers, watching the colourful people. The wheel

twists in my hand like an interracial concept: this I allow, admitting

there is no oversteering fresh-machined times. If things change here

there must be new kerthunking in the sky, new principles of design.




Singapore, 2015



The city sleeps; it’s lost its master—

no homing dream assaults the night.

Its eyelid stutters like a secret shutter.


The bridges, flexing their lulls over water,

provide no answer—so despite the lights

this city sleeps, though it’s lost its master.


This is how one day becomes another.

Furled streets that stiffen, anticipating flight—

an eyelid stuttering like a secret shutter—


the stammer of a river that knows its laughter

and is not ashamed. Bereft of shore, without a fight,

my city sleeps, and it has no master


but time. Soon it must wake to start the slaughter

of hours, and, innocent of nothing, pull wide

the eyelid stuttering like a secret shutter—


but nothing happens. The river rises past her

scheduled banks, finding quiet ways to indict

this city’s sleep. There is no master.

The eyelid stutters like a secret shutter.


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