I have a love/hate relationship with Google Photos. Every day I receive a notification compelling me to revisit the equivalent calendar date of a prior year, and I almost always look, even if I don’t particularly want to. With a single right swipe, I am transported back in time however many years the algorithm has dictated I journey. I have a love/hate relationship with Google Photos because sometimes I like what I find, and more often than not I don’t. In amongst treasured memories of high school, family holidays, nights out and University days are intersected images which remind me that there was a lengthy period of time in which the majority of my experiences were soured by the way I felt about the way I looked.
Poetry (shih) means to keep (ch’ih)
one’s nature and emotion in balance,
I think I’ve been teetering aimless
for some time now, thinking
and if I were surely serious about
this endeavour I would write
myself better, or at least
write about not getting any
better. I think about death
a lot for somebody generally
ecstatic to have made it to 23
and if I were Confucious I’d
be consciously curious about where
my heart is supposed to go from here.
They found Sappho in a garbage heap;
they found me on my back, singing, so
I was translating song lyrics into Mandarin,
grown tired of the textbook and more so
of my own shit. Found that the resulting
lines were all still snapshots of sentimental
songs but about language instead of lovers
or could-be-lovers or were-never-lovers
and I’m thinking we were the first of the four
but were at times suggestive of the other three.
You had never listened to Broken Social Scene
before and I had set about fixing that early on,
but when I refused to give Kesha’s last record
a spin you wound up angry and spoke only in
imperatives, like Anthem For… lyrics:
停 放 汽 车
放 下 那 个 电 话
睡 在 地 板 上
梦 到 我
And I never drove but we once stopped the taxi
short, and I should have dropped the phone,
didn’t sleep on the floor but the couch
became a bed on a few occasions and I always
dreamt about you when I was able to dream.
The way the reeds succumb to the current,
dip their tips underwater and arch
like birds pausing to drink, the river
moves as if around them, darkened
streaks of navigation patterns, green back
to the setting sun as if basking.
Maybe this is tao, the relinquishment
of unnatural influence. I am shaped,
sit sometimes with legs unable to cross
but it feels like enough to breathe
slow and watch the water seek the sea
and to be done with seeking the same.
I flip back through the years – find my father
folded into a faded armchair, half-shadowed
by the turning of a page as he read lines
from a Laurie Lee novel aloud, cider with himself.
I realise, these days, that I am poor with pronouns
just speak in general directions, could substitute
silence, say “bàba, how is the book so far?” or
“Bàba, how was your swim?” I still cannot
own this intimacy when he and I are both
as we often are and I know that I am selfish
in speech and writing and I think he knows
that there are poems about him. I think
he’s read a few and kept quiet. I sent an email
about the job and in the first line he’d replied
“Craig, not many of us make it out of this town,”
closest he came to a congratulations – it meant a lot.
I close the book.
I should have called.
Words all cloaked in peony pink,
blooming from soil to unfurl,
soft sounds sheltered in their thinness.
I sunk hands into the colour,
tasted through flesh the fronds
of our spoken patterns set to
scatter at the slightest wind
or shift in stanza shape, rose
in throat, dispersed a dialogue
and the pages moved without
purpose in the height of summer,
caught in its sultry syllables.
Rooted in language, lines
in the dirt compressed under
tongue but often eager
to sprout into the open
air and quickly decay.
Words emerge from the dark
like foxes in a blacked-out suburb,
do their damage, quickly depart.
One Facebook conversations every three
years is not the same as staying in touch.
In the summer of 06′ we watched Kill Bill
Volume Two, gave each other one punch
bruises until Autumn marked a change,
and we both had a rap metal phase
but I’m the only one who still listens to
Limp Bizkit rolling on public transport, kept.
I returned home after five years away
and he couldn’t place me, was out of place
due to time spent mock-southern. He told me
that the elders in China spit on the ground
frequently as a way to rid themselves of germs
and I pictured those damp hometown streets,
wondering also if the Jianguo market sellers
don’t bother to check ID when selling DVD’s.