The little girl – except she’s not so little –
Says to the young man, Your Eyes
Are blue as the sun in winter.
He pretends not to believe her
As he holds her middle finger
In the palm of his ribs. Listen, he says,
To the thunder of my heart.
The young man – except he’s not so young –
Says to the great lady, Your Hands
Are ochre-yellow, bougainvillea.
She thinks of violets, roses, red azalea
As he lifts her up, down, higher
Flesh spilling through his hands. Listen, he says,
To the squirrel in my pulse.
The great lady – except she’s not so great –
Says to her husband, Your Feet
Are the crimson roots of green pea.
He tastes salt-water from the sea
As he pretends not to see
The bruises on her thighs. Listen, he says,
To my promises and lies.
The husband – except he has no love –
Sits in the shade of trellis vines. The sun
Comes in, invades him, bright and gold.
What have I done, he says, in a past life
To deserve my wife? She is a lady
And great, and so lovely it is easy
To ignore the young man within her.
The little girl comes home, the sheets
Are fresh. She says to the young man,
Your palms are too wide for your wrists.
He pretends not to hear her.
He holds her lips against his own
And listens for the sea. She is limp.
The music from her eyes is silence.
Karmun Khoo (Victoria)