the strangler fig

By | 1 June 2022

but upon whose faces
does the shadowed row of half-moons fall?
justly, the doorway beckons
with care exaggerated;
it issues an invitation: come,
provide these offerings
remember what you were like as a child
crossing this bridge, dropping bruised petals and coins
to guide them to their new homes

what use is beauty when so many are dying?

say, of your leaving:
a screech, tiny and hinged on rusted metal,
and a hook upon my waking without sight
where night is safest; in darkness
red house shrines calm us (there are tiny offerings)
but what do we know of sacrifice except
leaving and death, and asking without giving

yes, loss visits
we anticipate it all the time
in whose honour do we grieve, with whose permission?
I see nothing now, my mind has left
my body disappearing, look,
look how the zephyrs gently brush me aside
then gaily blow, then soaring—
whose counting do I hear, ticking
whose outside world are we in—surely not mine
ribcage happily broken then pulled apart
the juicy delicious bits primed
to be masticated
take me in, and in being consumed, digested,
worse than dirt. no nourishment.

since then, I’ve written your death on a piece of paper—I’ve always seen clearly, you know; I’ve even tried to slow down the process, to buy you time: the whole tedium of papermaking, mixing ink, controlling how the black seeps into the hair of the brush, then sliding down, and then, cutting paper dolls into images of you to tell your ghosts: he is not so interesting after all; and having stooped so low, me, reduced to begging for another’s mercy for your sake (as if you are worth the price) in a place where the windows are tinted grey and heat-resistant; below them, marsh and sand condensed like tiny winged creatures crushed in my hand. waste.

eat them, I say, eat these little corpses, that exciting taste of imminent, irrevocable decay, of swirling terror that wakes your palatal taste buds, just a little—and you think you want more?


waste begets waste, worse than microbes
scraped from under one’s toenail while listening
for the house bell, and inside the structure, what we’ve done flickers
there, then gone, and there again
fireflies—at first many, now one,
she eats the guts of children, relishes
the fatty linings of intestines, then
flying away, she rids herself
what remains when our hope is scattered,
no longer floating in water, but strewn
here and there, over the bodies of our ancestors
(encroaching on the lands of angry house-dwelling spirits)
left under the strangler fig; while parasitic, its shade
shields them from the sun, later to be cut down,
and, when unprotected, their eyes will open,
bright with laughter
saying, we love you and we own you, but know this:
you’re worth little more than a mayfly,
not worth the collecting, the pinning, the use
of a coveted, carefully carved frame

our sky-covered memories, bloodied
as if to say, love, speak clearly, and
see the sacrifices that hang in a row
right above our heads—
those who have come before us,
peeled away, and knowing what we know
of what has been stripped from us

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