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My mum told him you need to come this way again

To see your grandchildren

Despite how much your old bones ache. I see how much smaller

He is in comparison to

The one I was afraid of angering way back when, how then and now have conspired

To make his arms softer

No more iron but formless as sand, moving under a fingertip

I remember the snap and crack

Of my heart in august

When he practised a foreign nice to meet you on the bus ride over

The hands holding the paper were

Not quite steady, and he drank too much and grasped

My father in law by the upper arms in the way that men do when they are afraid to let go.

Time is both hurting and helping us;

I can’t remember the last time he raised his voice at me, only the

Wet choke of pride over

Computer Connections that hum with words that are chewed over, but in the end

Swallowed down. I wish I could say out loud

I love you – you have made me this way. I love you, you still have a duty to me

It is you I will hold onto, in church

Until I accept the protection of another man.

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Broken & Whole

Why is it I find it easier to describe 

Feeling broken, rather than

Feeling whole?

How much simpler it seems to

Write about falling apart. When my centre cannot hold

When my words get to work

Translating the splits and hollows into print 

How easy it is to be angry and sad and

Fucked up. How the words crowd and buzz like overeager bees like needles scratched on pint glasses Like ice freezing tears like cut flesh

They are wine-thick and dripping

Prickling, pushing themselves into being. I know how to do broken.
How much more difficult it is to

Grasp, without sounding trite

The way that

All my past loves feel like forgeries

The way that the soft curve of nights spent together piles upon me but is weightless

The way that morning light is written in the sparkling tones of a romantic comedy, rather than 

With ominous deep-sea echoes

When I was coloured blue 

the story spewed itself until I was replete and the words rolled together as thunder

But now – how exquisitely difficult it is to voice

The steady equilibrium of today it is grey, but tomorrow you will make it golden

Today I am temporarily unhappy, but tomorrow

You will make me less so

How clumsy my tongue is with

These wholesome stories. How clumsy and euphoric it is to be put together

How clumsy and euphoric it is to be reassembled 

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I am thinking of funding my own private study

into the percentages of women who,

after being sexually assaulted

take up martial arts. 
Every time the bones in my ankles

twinge and protest from their times spent in unfamiliar places

or my wrists crack when rotated 

or my knuckles become clenched shells and the balls of my feet are ready –
the uppercut crunches like a ball in a socket

like a fist in the stomach like the

string of his teeth in my pocket until

I rattle and dance like a box full of presents, yes

breathe through my nose – I am ready

take hold of my wrists – I am ready

make a leash of my hair – I am ready
I am ready I am ready come and get me I am ready I am
mottle-throated, copper-coated

lying bloated

in a Seoul motel room

with a black tongue, foreign press and no I.D

I am relieved that, in hindsight 

I didn’t yet know 

how to fight.

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Your Face is Not Enough 

A long time ago

My mother told me someone 

Will fall in love with your mind, 

and not the way you look. I was

Struck dumb by the second

Part as if, in a sweeping cruel caress she had

– rightly – proclaimed never would I

Have one of those God-drawn faces, faces so biting and virile

They made man and woman alike

Look back.
I have lost track 

Of the times I have tightly bound up 

And squeezed my heart into

A compartment too small; thinking

As women do, that I am not enough.

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He is golden-haired

unaware of his own strength

lisping, deep-voiced and beautiful. He brought out in me

both mother and lover, counsellor

last night

fingers wrapped around a cigarette,

he looked at me – no, around me

avoiding my eye as if he’d never seen a naked woman before

I bowed, pressed the fruit of my lips to the steel wire flex in his arms

inhaled hot flesh, pornography, confusion 

he is used to

nasty, nameless stuff played by nasty, nameless people

in his single bed, dreaming in silicon tits and money shots,

what’s left of his brain paints patterns on sheets his mother

 launders with care, for him.

He told me I could hit him,spit on him. Fast forward and

he is regretting his words

watching as they send him sprawling,so nervous that my bed shakes beneath his trembling

as I kiss his fingers, one by one

he is 

what you’d generously call 

a ‘troubled youth’. Two suspensions

angry, isolated Asian parents

only child

occasional wearer of women’s underwear and desperately ashamed of everything. In almost perfect

Chinese English, he tells me his depravity – possibly gay –penchant for stealing. Breaking and entering.I am soft and stern with him,

cradling his honesty and feeling tenderly disposed to this little boy lost. 

Naked against me,he is breathless, mumbles– I don’t know what to do or say – burning with embarrassment, made ofmuscle and iron

I stroke his spine until he relaxes, becomes feline and exhales

I say – think of me as a friend…without the clothes – and

his nineteen year old smile ignites me like a warm blue wave tasting sand. Later, between

the teeth nipping rosebud blooms at the base of my throat and the

solitary re-remembering,

rosy and alone

he apologises. Blushes. Asks for a glass of water, but not before

carefully pulling his clothes back on –

brave enough to stroke, upon leaving,

the flush that decorates my breast bone

and stumbling – again so shy and raw with a new memory – he tells me that I look so pretty

I close the doorand lean against it, likea third-rate rom-com heroine


and laugh to myself,but quietly.

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Make Believe Dog

I want a dog.

My colleague asked “what kind of dog?” and I said 

any dog. The dog’s shape is not important,

what’s important is that he is a warm, breathing idea. When my chest constricts with anxiety and the next few days spool like black thread

tangling between my fingers like knots in tiny silver chains

I unpick the fear with the thought of my dog. My village house

on far-out Yuen Long soil, surrounded by a green that sneaks through sunlit windows

few english translations and locals who will stare for years but reluctantly come round to the idea of me in a wide-brimmed hat walking my nondescript dog.

This is a warm picture. I hold it in reverie, like a talisman

til it is as smooth as a worrystone

I turn it over between my fingers at night,

quietly moved by the slow rhythms of my partner’s breathing.

When I am angry I throw that dream away as if fury could keep it

quelled in the darkness of a well a thousand feet deep but 

with each soft kiss that tastes like sleep and unbrushed teeth I feel

my wishing pebble back and the hot make-believe rasp of my unnamed dog butting the foot of the bed.

In the morning

dark outside and in my designated smart clothes

sleepy with the illicit

extra ten minutes we say we won’t spend but find impossible to resist

somewhere near my apartment a baby cries like a broken thing 

and I want to cry too

because I feel like a broken thing.

But I hold on to the shadow 

of warm bodies in the morning, Yuen Long and I love you and

my make believe dog.

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