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Waking, I notice

A space by my face,

I know today you’ll

Visit your friend

Who struggles to live,

Far, across cement, crowds,

Sweat and wires, you’ll

Tread to sit in a

Room of smoke and magnolia.

Watching, waiting.

We disagree on almost

All strategies.

Our minds stretch strong

Move in a million different ways.

What would I do if

Something happened to you?

In a blink, the train

To another station arrives.

I will get on a plane,

To see her.

I don’t want to see her.

Wax-like, cocooned in tubes.

But it’s not her

Who wants to see me,

The months keep them toiling,

People keeping her alive.

For the living,

I will murmur to the fading tiger.

For the living I will

Appear in the flesh,

Cook, sing and write.

———————-

Written some weeks ago when deciding to go on a long distance flight to see my grandma who is breathing, but in a very deep sleep. I couldn’t go earlier because of health reasons. Then I noticed a reluctance to go. I think it’s because something really melodramatic and tragic happened previously for us in August and so a) I wish people would stop dying in August and b) a desire to remain detached from the exhausting chaotic entanglement of severe emotional strain, practicalities and strategy.

Anyway, I did go and found space-holding good, talked to my grandma (hoping and imagining she can hear us) and also took a bunch of pics and films. It felt like she wanted me to go on a family trip / journey away from home..

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A Flying Cinema

A little bit of me dies ⬇️every time I have an airport search. Luckily, my ghost 👻 later basks in geeking out, watched 20 + trailers to pick the best films (for me at least!) to float in for the ride. Moods: dreamy, desolate, darkhumour, fairytale, myth, enigmatic, fantasy.

1. “Timecode” (Dir. J. Giménez Peña, 2016). 2 carpark security guards who work different shifts and barely speak to each other start leave messages (in dance – captured on CCTV) for each other in this tantalising short.

2. Then I listened to “The Very Best of Charles Mingus” (2001, 1hr 16m 13s). An alluring tapestry of fervour and mystery.

3. “The Breadwinner” (Dir. Twomey, 2017) “Stories remains in our hearts when all else is gone.” In this mesmerising animation, a young girl pretends to be a boy to help her family survive in Kabul when her father is wrongfully imprisoned.

4. “The White Girl” (J. Suen / C. Doyle). Initially, I was a little confused by the title! Dir. Jenny Suen introduces her film as “TropicalNoir” 🌴💀 which may be my new fav genre. In “the last fishing village of Hong Kong”, a socially ostracised teenage girl warbles along to a vintage Chinese pop song on a portable tape player. The singer is her absent mum, a former beauty queen whose silky negligee she’s wearing with long pearls + knee-high wellies. Her widowed fisherman dad mainly grunts at her to “bring him beer”. A poetic stranger appears in the form of an Adrien Brody/ Hipster dude who starts inhabiting the mysterious ruin at the top of the hill. A small boy selling mosquito cones and a sagacious goggled inventor monk carefully inspect the motives of the village chief…

5. “Min Börda” (Dir. Niki Lindroth von Bahr, 2017, 14m 25s). Weird, animated, darkly funny musical “extravaganza”. From the depressed hotel fish in dressing gowns to the other anthropomorphic characters who are revealed in sly ways as the music opens for each absurd pageant.

6. “Still on the Bridge” (Johnnie To). A widower sells candy on the street without a vending license. He corrects a friend’s assumption that he can read English, explaining that he’s got English newspapers on his stand because they are “better for soaking up moisture”. An intimate glimpse into a person’s life, social commentary with the lonely wail of reverb guitar.

7. “Fish Out of Water” (Johnnie To. 19m 54s). NB there are several films with this title. Disruption. Industrialisation. When words might be inadequate to express the destabilising effect of a changing way of life, the body strives to make itself be noticed and understood. Ironically, my viewing of this film was constantly interrupted by airplane announcements as we were landing….. 👟👟🏙

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Silver

Magpies

Magpies

In my room,

Tried to steal

My jar of tears..

Too heavy

They left.

—–

Magpies

Magpies

In my room,

Tried to steal

My jar of sweat..

Too light

They left.

—–

Magpies

Magpies

In my room,

Tried to steal

My jar of blood..

Too deep

They left.

—–

Magpies

Magpies

In my room,

Tried to steal

My jar of words..

Tomorrow

We feast.

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Sweet, Salt, Storied (portrait of a tree)

Some years ago, I noticed your branches..
sweet, salt, storied..

on a road to the sea, we drifted unbound
(your leaves spoke with the breeze)..

over the miles,
seeds shared,
sky sprinkled with
ice cream and coffee revelations..

in months your roots
swim slow in grim,
winter Essex clay..

today I hear you
speak in songs and

through my hands
I see you

ablaze with fruit.

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Snake in a tree

I saw a snake in a tree, pretending to be a bird.

Lightning struck but the bird flew.

I heard a cave in the armpit of a giant.

Singing with sweat, while poison dust flew.

I tasted the shadow of a mystery in a cake shop.

Shaped like a crown, the pearls fell before swine.

I attacked the sun, and the sky punched me back!

I changed my scales and the weather didn’t throw me a backward glance.

I lunched with laughter and dined on despair.

Like magical curtains, free water flows from eyes and skies.

—————–

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Writer Reflections:

Haha! Finally a form which doesn’t matter that I can’t format it on a computer.

The bittersweet sound of success (head-banging gently on table or a toy vehicle repeatedly driving into a shoe).

The form is a statement followed by an answering detail.

The pattern breaks at “I attacked the sun” and “I changed my scales” (I just edited a video for my piece “Baby Dragon” yesterday).

Then back to one more statement and answer.

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I’m sorry, son

I’m sorry, son,
For the pain I caused you both.
That day I heard
Siren moonlight in the woods,
Later, knee-deep
In tantalising quicksand,
I even wished
To add you to our new life.

One night I crawled
Back, weary for quietude.
Frightened, you ran
To her bed, waking with words,
“Who is that man
In my room?” She takes a breath,
“It’s your father.”
Questions spin within your dreams.

Belonging craves,
Deep pressures pulled me apart,
Pieces of me
Wandered in bright illusions,
Longing for that
Ever elusive feeling –
Fulfilment and
The quest to harmonise doubt.

Gradually..
The glamour crumbled away,
I drove gladly,
Desiring my family.
It took me years,
To perceive the damage caused,
As I arrived,
To a wholly different home.

 


 

Some reflections with a query… (scroll to the end for the query)

I used 4 syllables than 7 syllables throughout this poem. I tend to open the poem and then try to continue the “beat” or syllable idea. The mismatch between the length of the syllables of the alternating lines further conveys the idea of disparity (aspirations, age, realities, experiences etc).

I used to struggle with tense. Although a native English speaker, I am sometimes caught wondering whether what I want to say is most effectively presented in the past or present (or some other tense). Here, I go for past mainly, however, I used present in the middle. I did this spontaneously in the flow of writing and think it is because it gives that part a different feel.

Using italics for the 3rd stanza seems to give not just that stanza that distant/ slightly nostalgic tone (which I associate with italics) but also the last verse seems “gentler” (?) than it did before I added the italics..

What do you think.. is it better with or without the italics?

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Broken Record (love on repeat)

You named me again,*
as with my mum,
my health flickered;
light a new name and
a child will flourish.

Like the shadow of a dreaming carp,*
I float to the kitchen;
it’s breakfast in Hong Kong.
eight hours to an evening feast;
here, at two am, I nibble cheese and hummus.

When my aunt visits you, she
invites you to eat delicious buns, and
just for a moment, your eyes open;
far away in another hospital bed,
I am not fixed, but I know what the pieces do.

This January, you forgot which
epic drama episode you’d seen,
asked your eldest to play “Oblivion” on repeat;
when I was five, you sent you voice on tape,
telling a story of an elephant and an ant.

Today, more than three decades later, I record:
“Hello Grandma, it’s me – the name you gave me,
I really hope you get well soon!
Here are fifteen kisses; xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx..”;*
with extra – in case one gets lost in the post.


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There was/is a Chinese tradition that if a child suffers from health issues, the parents rename and give them a luckier name.

Recently made a fish for a performance. It’s now in the living room hanging out with the religious icons. Carp is a lucky Chinese symbol.

Idea for performing the xx in the piece:

  •  Rather than making kiss / mwah noises for the kisses, make small / visibly sized square-ish pieces of paper with kisses (e.g in red/ multicoloured crayon).
  • Or make the squares or stars (or hearts – maybe that’s a bit cheesy) from multicoloured paper.
  • Drop them on the stage in a rhythmical manner
  • In silence.
  • Or while striking a glass tumbler or mug with a teaspoon like a message sound.

“;*

Probably grammatically incorrect but looks like a sideways emoticon of a playful look, with speech marks for my hair, blowing a kiss.

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