Our buildings are face-to-face in ’88–
towards Al-Raouché, ours is the five-storey
apartment block my grandfather built
with Latin American money,
coffeecake cement pocked with bullet holes
that birds nest in, my verandah a playpen
of flaking paint & pollution grit. I’m 3 and my game
is to peel coins of rust from the railing.
My knuckles are still puckered with baby fat. Rust
is the brightest smell I know
in a world where I’m new dough rising
in the midst of death piled on
death, a layer cake of death.
Her building is taller and less ravaged by the war,
a throne in a Parisian style I don’t understand
in toddlerhood, the awnings green as the shallows
of a mighty nearby sea we’ve never saluted
together. I never knew
who she was. She looked so old–maybe 110–
I wonder now, was she
50? 60? wrinkled by burning rubber
and TNT, her hair a magnificent wheat-yellow beehive.
I’d wave to her, there shaded, top-floor balcony,
on her throne beneath her birdcages of vivid
canaries, her pygmy palms in glossy pots–
we would watch each other chronicling everything
the street carried for those breathcatching
moments of a long war.
I heard you died, tante,
We all died, but our pummelled buildings
by some miracle,
- 99: BROWNFACESUBMIT NOW with W S Dunn 98: SINGAPORECOMING SOON with A Pang and J Ip 97: PROPAGANDACOMING SOON with M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones