Life, cannot quell
thoughts of you
In the Malay of childhood, you’re eight,
our hands are sticky
with frangipani sap. It’s rainy season;
you have starfruit juice, caught
silver on your chin,
the essence of a cloud.
Mum and Dad are playing paddle board
in the teeming rain, they’re slick as orchids
swatting the downpour. My fingernails
are carmine tipped; I’m killing ticks,
our Alsatian whines. You run
into the rain, rambutans have fallen,
they’re furred clots on the grass.
You’re ten, Dad drives, a bottle of Bacardi
between his legs, Mum passes
him a tin of pineapple juice.
They trade slurps; Rita Coolidge sings.
We’re in the backseat, tearing pastry
from curry puffs, nits crawling
through our hair. Brahmans linger
roadside and stare through the open window.
You reach, pining, toward
the rough warmth of their snouts.
You’re fourteen, I ride the BMX you taught
me to strip and rebuild
to a house out the back of Kellyville.
The hash we score is ballast
in our lungs. We smoke it
at the soccer oval mesmerised
by the silhouette of a servo at sunset.
You’re twenty three
we’re selling for Uriati, acid
in our pockets, felt under our fingers,
horses racing in our ears, laughter
sharp as a clattering break. He tells us
to deal with latex gloves, we don’t listen.
Our nights are manifold,
never ending, they wear the shellac
from our fingers. As you slip
the shackles of fear, I winnow,
prone with worry, and our night-years
flood my mouth with the taste of a derelict future.
I run from our suburban notch; cast off
to monsoonal Malay light
for a lost legacy. There is nothing. A place,
a past, no home. I return, years spent
without your trumpet voice,
scant comfort to offer.
Friends and I have left you too long
in the leaves. Laughter has congealed,
white in your mouth. Names
have become words thrown
and trampled to dust.
You’re twenty eight
there are boards over the windows;
you’re bare to the waist watching
words in the trees.
My car twists down the dirt track;
you speak of buried money, angry spittle
on your lips, a scalp
cropped in rage, your muscles
taut as bones, unloaded gun
in your hand.
I am the key for your curse. You
let me lock you away.
You’re thirty the last time
I hear you swear. The last time
I see the voice of our dead mother in your eyes.
You’re in a room
with men who tend and bridle
the anger between your teeth,
the fire in your spine,
men who watch you sleep, who know
how the hidden blade cuts.
Life, cannot quell