mother says, worry etched into
the crevices of every syllable.
She tucks a soft prayer
behind my ear before I leave
home with an 11kg backpack
stuffed to the brim with rigid
fears and unwieldy trepidations
that dig into (but do not break)
obstinate back bone.
Head held high, my tongue weaves
fake bravado into truth-coated lies,
squeezes big talk past smiling
teeth as they chatter but do not chit
chat, keep wandering eyes on well-lit
road and itchy feet on beaten track,
never walk beyond the safety of the light.
After all, aren’t all little girls taught
they must fear the night?
“The world is a beautiful place.”
On Christmas Eve, I barely sleep.
Listening to the gentle lilt of
Vietnamese, I realise then that
this is where I am meant to be.
All these tones I cannot untangle
into meaning twists into a tapestry
titled “presence”, enough to envelop
us all in the moment, I try to trace these
un-strangered faces through bleary eyes,
carve their smiles into heart with a
sharp fragment of our collided time. We
sip on the sweet, fermented permanence
of freedom and taste the burgundy
of a local red wine.
That night my mind wanders back
to my first goodbye. The kindness of a girl
in a small Bangkok hostel, how our
eyes met in the bathroom mirror and hers
crinkled into crescent moons as if
she could see the wild in mine.
All matted-hair and saliva-slick scars,
voice hoarse from howling at an endless dark,
whilst she had long escaped what I assumed
was an unchangeable fate. Taught me isolation
is the bigger mistake and rebellion can be
as simple as sharing golden slices of mango
and sunrise with anyone who may want
Though there will always be shadows
lurking at the edge of the night, the choice
we have is whether we let them
close wanting throat and cloud curious mind.
For the best things in the world (including us)
are mere moments spun into stories
and I do not want to just survive by staying
inside self-drawn lines, stare at empty page
and struggle to write, I’d much rather
experience what it means to be truly alive.
I didn’t want to write something very cliche or preachy about how great solo-travelling is, we’ve all heard that before. Although I can’t promise to have been entirely successful in not reverting to cliches, I can promise that the words above come from a place of authenticity.
I hope your new year is going well!