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?
I lost my heart in Xi’an,
slipped it into the suitcase
of a boy I’d met three days ago
before kissing him goodbye.
Strange, how stray words tangle
and lives shaken off trajectory,
My youth was spent by simple
seaside. Every day, watching the
gentle rise and fall of predictable
tides. Whilst he grew up on the
other side of a different shore line.
I wonder if the same waves would
remind him of when he saw crimson
flow, breathed in the stench of fragile
bodies broken by the warm earth
they were buried under, all the
nameless numbers surrounded by
plaques of rubble and dust while
the sun rose behind him as if
it was just any other day.