we bleed words

until we are read all over


I am writing this at work, which is not something that I ever really do, except that it is quiet this morning and everyone is in a rush. I like morning shifts, even though I have to wake up before the sun is out. I dress warmly in my boots and my raincoat, I buy a coffee from next door. Sometimes there are people waiting outside, but more often, they walk past in their business clothes to wherever they need to be. Occasionally, a regular customer will wave when they look in. Everyone is kinder in the morning. Maybe because we are all tired, or maybe because saying “have a nice day” feels truer.

I’m in the habit of romanticising life, but there’s something sweet about listening to movie soundtracks, shelving books, and secretly reading Angela Carter behind the counter. I’m reading The Magic Toyshop, and it is the kind of book that feels eternal. There’s this line about Melanie getting her period for the first time, and I can’t stop thinking about it – “she had felt she was pregnant with herself.” Which is just wildly vivid and beautiful.

I haven’t written poetry for a long time, it almost feels strange. I’m trying to write a poem for my friend’s dance performance. I know I have to think about it differently because it will be spoken, not read. I think all poems should be written to be read, but it’s different because you miss the shape of letters, or line-breaks, or the kind of loneliness you feel when you read it silently in your head. Her dance is about sonder. I feel it often, I think about it, I even write it sometimes. How do I say it? What images do I see? I’m on winter break from uni, so I’m hoping to write more freely. Next semester, I’m taking an advanced class on creative writing. Which will mean more poetry, and more musing. I think I am past feeling and catharsis, now I want to be good. I know it can be both, but it doesn’t have to be. I want my writing to feel strange to myself sometimes.

I will get back to work now, and busy myself with mindless tidying. I’m going to meet a friend today for lunch when I’m done. I feel like I am in a very particular time of my life that I will miss a lot when I’m older. I feel that way about every age, but my twenties! Studying and working part-time and reading and going out to play. I’ve been reading through the online journal I kept briefly during my final weeks of high school. It is really dusty and untouched, like a little time capsule of being seventeen. Stupid and silly and lovely. I always feel extremely old, but I was only a teenager two years ago. It’s easy to forget that it’s going slowly, there’s still time.

Drawing eggs over and over again

It feels too warm to be the middle of autumn, but I’ve noticed that the leaves have started to turn, and I wonder how they know. Writing has been good these days, but not always in poetry. I feel more confident in my language; in the words I know I am able to use, like old friends who miss me when I am gone for too long. I’ve been revisiting my writing from this blog, and it helps to recenter my thoughts. I know everything is a letter to myself.

I’m going to write a really long personal essay for my final assignment in my Feature Writing class, and I need to think, and think, but I also need to write. Anything, even this. Just to relax my writing muscles, and find rhythm. In high school, my art teacher used to make us draw eggs for 10 minutes at the start of class. My hand would go round and round, all over the place, filling up pages with a hundred little charcoal circles. I guess I’m just trying to recreate that in writing.

My friend bought me Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood for my birthday last year, and it is one of the only essay collections that I own. I cherish it deeply. I also think it has made me see the beauty of essays. I used to think only poems could be beautiful. I still feel that way sometimes, and that’s how I know I am a poet in my heart. I think poems are the only things that can make me cry like I mean it. Not for myself, but for the sake of it, for the universe, for the whole chaos of living.

The poem I wrote yesterday was terrible, but felt good. It sounds horribly pretentious, but listening to orchestral music makes me feel inspired. Actually, most music makes me feel inspired, which is why I always link a song as a pairing. I feel like Year of the Tiger would be in the soundtrack for the movie of my life. I don’t think the poem is particularly cryptic, and I don’t think poems need to be explained if they can be felt. But I want to be stronger these days. I know it is in my blood to be stronger. I want to reintroduce beauty into my life.

Strangely, I am also studying fashion as part of my Art History major right now. I thought it would be boring, but it’s lovely, and I’m thinking a lot about the physical world because of it. The way materials feel, or how fabrics catch the light. Maybe I will write my 2.5k essay about that feeling. I don’t know. I know it has to be interesting and fun and exciting and newsworthy, but everything in my life is so slow. Quiet. My head moves through thoughts so quickly, but the feelings always stay. I am trying to find what is calling to me to be written. I know it doesn’t have to be this dramatic but everything always is, isn’t it?

Second try (Year of the Tiger)

(Note: 1998)

Unsure of what to do with my hands,
I carry on
with the weight of this life.
I plunge
into the well of longing. Tilt my head back,
& drink. Lady lazarus

on my shoulder. For once,
you are not a metaphor for death.

For once, I am
the hunter. I kneel into my
I mourn nothing
but rebirth.

the translation of light

(Note: Words are futile devices.)

6:54 a.m. when i wake early, i am a ghost in the echo of a feeling. i wonder if i am changing – if this is what changing feels like. i catch my reflection in the bathroom mirror. the soft creature that watches me is looking somewhere else. somewhere beyond this place; her home, her girlchild body, the sight of her bare feet on white tiles. she wants more than what this earth can offer. she doesn’t realise that the translation of light isn’t light itself. the space between her body and another living body is not enough. is too much. is the only kind of loneliness she knows. i allow myself a minute of musing, a moment to watch myself being watched. sometimes the sky rises into a river of colours, & all i can think is: i want it to be more beautiful.

machine heart rumble

(Note: A poem about how I haven’t been writing poems. I miss you. I want to love you. It doesn’t always have to hurt.)

machine heart opens like an unfurled fist;
a flood of warm rain, seeping into the burnt soil
of my body. everything here is dimly-lit & uninspired
but i want to come home. months slip past
& i am still alone in this fog of unlearning.
i sink into a sea of lost images: my mother’s
freckled cheek, a faded birthday card.
a whole summer of longing. crying alone
on a crowded bus. i am bored of this living.
the sunflowers weep for me, they remind me
of graves. i cry for a little longer,
with no one watching. the world is terrified
of my tender eyes. i will write myself
into redemption. i will hold the knife with
both hands. the kettle comes to a boil.
what a beautiful sound, i once said. i hear
it singing. late december is a series of epilogues,
& i have always been fond of endings.
i want to come home! the heart rumbles.
oh, i am knocking, i am knocking.


(Note: For Jum)

Circling the train lines that make my home your home,
I must be inching closer to a place that could be forgiveness.
In August I miss you, the way you stumble over words
with a mouth that reeks of alcohol & someone else’s love.
You want to know if I still cry like a leaky faucet & the answer is yes.
I try to find your face in old metaphors; I relearn absence.
I remember your body without knowing what bodies are meant for,
what the softness means. How I loved you once. How my heart
knows your heart, like a scratched record, singing, yes, yes, still, yes.

(Somewhere it is always spring & you are in that dress & I am sitting on a park bench waiting to meet you. You let yourself love me in the light for a little bit longer, & it doesn’t hurt to feel so young.)























everything is a poem / 19 year-old hair


thought of retiring this little blog. thought i’d grown out of writing bad poems, that i’d try and get published, make money, work. thought i was so sick of hearing myself speak, i’d rather not speak at all. not sure what ‘not-poetry’ even means. this is not a not-poem and i’ve decided i’m never going to write not-poems because everything will be a poem if i want it to be. sometimes i get the feeling that i’m destined for some intangible greatness, even though everyone feels that way when they’re almost 20 years-old and mildly interested in life. not sure if i’m particularly interested in life, either. i have not written anything for months, but i’ve been reading a lot. when i feel lost i come back here and pretend i’m 15 again. not sure if this is unhealthy. i am leaving teenagehood behind soon, i’m only here to lament. i physically don’t age until i write about my nostalgia. i don’t know what to tell you, except that i have loved 19 dearly. more than any age i have ever been. i will write a poem about cutting my 19 year-old hair. it will be so good, i won’t let anyone read it.

this is not a poem pt. 6

Instead of going out with E, I stay home and write a poem. I do not tell him that this is what I am doing, because he will miss me and convince me to go out. In some alternate universe there is a version of myself that is out with E, where we eat nice food and have lots of fun like silly kids out on a Thursday night. We talk about his cute girlfriend and my unresolved daddy issues, and he makes me laugh so much that I do not think of poetry at all. Books do not exist in this alternate universe because I am so content. There is no time for dreaming.

Instead, I am here in my bed, thinking of the poem, unfinished, although I have been trying to write it for weeks. Somehow the outside world is separated from this realm of poetry. It’s as though there is the poem and there is the art, and everything else is just research. Daily living is just a side project.

At university I am taking a class on Creative Writing, and it is wonderful and arduous. I am painfully aware of my use of words. Everything has a purpose, everything begs for speculation. Why did you choose to call yourself water? Is this poem about death? Is this line necessary? & so on. As I grow into the world of writing, I realise that I have to sell myself. When I am asked to write for a friend’s project, I think: dear god let me feel compelled to write about happy ordinary things just this once. Every sentence is perfectly constructed, I mull over commas and line-breaks, I send drafts to other writer-friends because I suddenly want to know: is this good? Which is a necessary question, although it can sometimes shift into: is my writing passable if I use all my best technical skills, even if the feeling is not there, even if it is fake, simply because I am afraid of writing about death, or water, or some other unsayable thing?

I have decided that I am tired from months of psychotherapy, and I no longer want to talk about my anguish. At the same time I don’t know how to talk about anything else. The only thing left is to not talk at all, because I have used up all of my words and there is nothing else to say. Slowly, I try to find my roots. I say I will write about my mother. I will write about women. About food, and the weather. And the trees. There is a certain kindness in the world and I want to find it. This year I have realised that healing is inherently painful, and each week when I visit the psychologist’s office, I know I must look at this ugly thing inside of me and shoot it in the face. Which is terrible imagery, I know, but this is how it feels.

I wonder sometimes if there are things that cannot exist in poetry. If the words do not find themselves, and the feeling never comes, do I find myself in paintings? In novels? In history and essays? I recently read Audre Lorde’s Poetry Is Not a Luxury, and it resonated with me very deeply. Here is an excerpt from her piece, simply as a reminder to myself. Audre Lorde has popped up in so many of my classes and accidental readings and anthologies – I think her ghost is following me, praying for me. She makes me feel incredibly safe and understood, which is a rare and special thing.

As they become known and accepted to ourselves, our feelings, and the honest exploration of them, become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas, the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have once found intolerable or incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but the true meaning of “it feels right to me.” We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.

Quiet love

(Note: I forgot about this little poem, written some time ago, for a friend)

There is no kiss,
but the space between mouths
in the front seat of your car
reminds me of intimacy

without the barrier of skin.
No lover’s touch, no father’s gaze,
just your arm slung around my shoulder
in the warmth of a summer night,

where I am just a girl
in a backless dress,
sitting here,
waiting for you.

summer fruits

(a song for healing)

love in this season always gets me going.
my hometown, drenched in fat colours,
waiting for me in the suburban heat.

when the doctor asks,
i tell him i am a painter of sorts.
a sometimes-poet.

i want to write myself beautiful and open,
but instead it’s just flood. fat colours, fat tears.
fat old balding man in plastic chair who wants
me stuffed with pills to stop the noise.

some feelings don’t deserve words, i always say.
but maybe i just mean myself. no words for this girl,
no sir. you wanna talk about it?
what else do i have to say.

i’d like my heart to jump out of its home,
into the world. want to make the world my home,
but sometimes it just hurts.
saltwater bones, you know me.
it’s in the blood.

he says, “hey, you’re so young, like a baby”
and if i was more of myself, i’d be angry.

but i’m not angry, i’m tired;
the clinic’s walls are all blue, and i’m still crying,
nineteen and fully grown, patient a possible risk to self

so tired, i almost want to ask him to hold me,
because i want to be held, i want to know if this body
still beats, and loves, and lives, because i hope it does,
god, i hope it does.