Jessika Tong is twenty six years old. Her work has been published in various national and international literary journals including The Age, Tears in the Fence, The Speed Poet’s Zine, FourW, Stylus, Verandah, Pendulum, Wet Ink, Polestar and The Westerly. She recently performed at the 2008 Queensland Poetry Festival and her first collection of poems The Anatomy of Blue is forthcoming in 2008 with Sunline Press.
Stirred from clay
Peeled from the old black bark of German oak
Curled inside my palm, his arms
Tucked back like new, featherless wings.
How will I describe a man to you?
Can words do him justice?
The bones pressed upon like envelopes,
The flesh salted and steamed.
And men, where are the women?
Where are these homes of children and kitchens?
These waist deep cauldrons,
The highways thick with winter lights…
Them to meet your mother
She sniffed the city lights at my wrist,
As if slit and put us to work like rusted mules
Where they would bloom
Softly and out of place against the cold white steel.
To eat and live machinery.
Its hissing motor
A heart, my heart that turns over each hour
With a long, desperate cry.
A chicken bone. We march on.
One red foot in front of the other,
The grinding of metal,
Finally a small child that throws up
Lightening each time I lend my breast to it.
In that warehouse.
Do not look so astonished that
We no longer breathe love or its strange pollen.
That the whitewashed tongue of decency
No longer pricks our imaginations
But leaves brick dust on our teeth instead
Of those mythical fires.
Clear, consistent arteries.
The war encrusted pipes screamed at our
Tea cups while we danced off death
Before the stove light.
The two of us, great wounds
Refusing to scar, to mend the tortured rhythm
Of arms that no longer hold the other.
We could touch it.
Pull it between our teeth like a blackened finger.
That month four people in our street
Killed them-selves just to be warm.
Into the gutters.
Lovely in life
Now they are turned in leaves
Ferried from the canopy to the earth
With no right to privacy
The kind that we share in this room,
On this bed, across this kitchen table.
I ask you,
Has enough been sacrificed for you to be a whole and I a half?
We sat up reading Chaucer by a kerosene lamp
Fingers melted to the orange bone of light,
Tingling with alcohol.
But it was an accident.
Buttoning your heart, scrounging for an axe in the empty pantry.
‘We can’t afford an abortionist. You will have to kill it yourself’.
The bonneted Eve that slept upon my wish bone.
The old woman from next door
Bent above me and I sunk into her arms
This old mother who smelled so much like my own.
She took it out, that sobbing seed
And feed it to the cat. Then
Knotted a yellow ribbon onto the door handle.
The deed is done!
She told me to get up, get up and dust your-self off.
Put on your best dirtiest dress, scrape mud onto your cheeks.
Trick yourself with perfume and bread my lovely thing.
Do you really want to be all alone in this old country?
You are fat and clean while the
Rest of us are filthy.
We are plucking at the greased bones of God
Starving and sickly as he points us away
From his door.
One night you return to me
Rich with stories of your other wife.
Of how she soaked you with pig fat before
Taking you into her mouth.
The robes of a Cleric convincing us all of
I fill you with apologetic kisses.
Who is this woman before you with the pomegranate seeds
Crushed between her teeth?
For six long months I dwelled at this doorway
Between these four walls eating rat poison,
Wailing in my widow’s armour.
At this flickering apple tree that I have sat beneath
With blue copies of myself
Hot against your cheek.
I pasted that
Long four letter word to your crutch
In hope that it will seed and give off a