One Day I Will Find It
I'll follow the smell of food: fried ikan bilis, roast lamb, mangoes;
or the sound of water touching down on sand, stones, mud.
Perhaps the code for entry will be in braille
and I must stand in a dark room at midnight, weeping
and running my fingers over two stone tablets.
It will be in my mouth—a thin wafer of honey,
the bitter salt taste of my husband's sweat.
I will see it, I'm sure, yellow as wattle in winter
and brown as the grass under snow.
It will be a skyscraper, fifty storeys tall.
It will be the smallest, most picturesque cottage.
I will live there alone and with everyone I love.
No children are raped there.
No one eats while others go hungry.
No lying awake, wondering which woman or child
in what sweatshop has made these pyjamas I wear,
or the sheets on the bed, or the rug on the floor.
I will not have to lock the door.
An explosion of light. A word that is itself.
A word to possess me. An image so bright and complete
it can only be seen with eyes shut tight. As in prayer.
As in sleep – a dream that outlives reality.
An image to enter me like a knife, like a nail,
hammering in till it finds its reply, taking my body
like breath, like the strong kiss of a bridegroom,
like death, in all its finality.
Someone is at work in me,
translating this corrupt language of my body,
the dark, bitter words of my heart
into the pure language of that other place
where every word is a radiant arrival
that draws me across the threshold
and claims me as its own.
A Place to Return To
Bed, toilet, kitchen. Exposed brick walls.
This worn grey carpet, toys all over the floor
reminding me that I have left the life of the mind
for this. “Home!”, the children call out in the car,
“We're going home!” They must mean this place.
I consider my father, born into a single room
that housed his whole family. And this –
running water, six sets of taps, a fridge, a washing machine,
enough books for a dowager empress, or medieval king.
If there must be a place, a tent for the body
on this earth, I'll take this one, with the blue plumbago
waving defiantly through the natives, the climbing white jasmine
rampant over the fence, and the mulberry tree, that foreigner
so completely at home, growing taller each year.
First published in Contemporary Asian Australian Poets, edited by Adam Aitken, Kim Cheng Boey & Michelle Cahill. Puncher & Wattman Poetry, 2013, pp. 148-9. Available here.
This poem is currently on the NSW HSC syllabus.
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