Jennifer Anne Champion
A Question For Georgette
His body is an open bible on a rainy morning.
Was he hoping because you are a woman that you would also be a Sunday painter?
It only matters if yours was also a Sunday love.
Your paint brush makes tiny, wet sounds.
Dips like a swan seeking in teal and violet – neck-first the burst – the scurrying bloom
of life in its beak. Lurking beneath surfaces,
your hunger with its sacred seeking purpose.
You want to catch colours you can taste – shades that press against your cheeks – sweet
colours more coloured than life – life more still
than life. Because his face is the only one you want
to paint over and over like a favourite song, because his body is an open bible on a rainy morn –
and these are deathless days, because his face
- his face is the hymn under your paint, the canvas
under your breath. What did paint tell you that skin could not? Life. More still than life. Rot
more skilled than lot. His body is still there, open.
Still undecipherable, on some mornings, sunday or
rainy. How many rainy Sundays does the National Gallery get? Life gets more still with these
questions. I pick a brush and use it to paint my lover.
His body is an open bible on a rainy morning.
Was he hoping because I am a woman that I would also be a Sunday painter?
It only matters if ours was also a Sunday love.
Grab your suitcase. The one you only use when you mean business. When you mean flight and also baggage, enough stubbornness to take you through long haul. The work, the life you are carrying inside, is that delicate balancing act between light and air. How much does a clear mind cost? You must believe in it enough, or this plane gets lost. Is not even dignified with a crash. No ripped teddy bear of consolation. The stewardess is asking if you want to know what’s behind the occupied sign. It turns out it’s the same man taking a shit, trying to make the same mental sum work. He wants to know why you care so intimately about his pain. Open your bag now. Show, don’t tell him, why.
A Bamboo Pole
After Suli Breaks.
"My parents are second generation immigrants.”
and I wonder where the immigration stops. where I stop
this is the only authenticity, the only
otherness I know.
no show of pretending to feel kindred and kin
tonight, not again.
I’m holding myself together tonight, not again.
I’m asking you whether time is a figure of speech
or a figurine peach
all the delight of the juice-filled
teaching me to hold him in the palm of my hand.
this is not vulgar.
I too want to picture the sea.
the way lallang grass bows its head in worship
and the bird, unseen
shakes the darling buds of flame of forest.
forest suds where I live.
this is the only authenticity I have.
the clean-washed, developed images.
the film clinging to wetness
off a bamboo pole.
A is for Epal
Because she’s the only one who talks to me now and she is my only friend, I pay the small price of thinking As are Es. In return I never tell my parents about the man reading newspapers at the community centre. How he gives me Wrigley’s and Juicy Fruit gum. And how he gives her kisses. Not the kind my parents give each other or me or even the ones on The Love Boat in the evenings where it looks like the people have been told to pretend they're drowning. The swoop and dive with a foot in the air. That look like they’ve gotten the sequencing all wrong. First you slip, then you fall. Then is the rush of it all to head. The gum feels so rare I feel compelled to keep it in my underwear for safety and when I lift my skirt to tuck it in, the man gets a flash of lint. He giggles because it’s cute. He says, Go play little girl, I talk to your Aunty for a little while. This uniform has no pockets making it an unreliable garment. This arrangement too has no loopholes. Why shouldn’t both my mothers have their consolation? Why shouldn’t I be alone again? with the damn book we have to fill up everyday. I look at the only three pages I ever filled and therefore ever really grasped.
The page I fill out to learn to write the Chinese character for “people” (ren!), The page I fill out to learn to write the Chinese character for “mouth/ice” (koh!), The page Aunty P fills out to learn to write the English alphabet for A.
I do the colouring myself so I count this proudly as a team effort.
We are educated. And the rest is a blank.
Jennifer Anne Champion is a writer, educator and multimedia editor at poetry.sg. When she is not teaching and judging poetry in schools, she is archiving, missing her cat and writing from her office on a hill in Chinatown. Jennifer believes poetry has powerful socio-transformative powers. She has also written several articles about art, poetry and society, and is about to release her second collection of poetry with Math Paper Press, titled Caterwaul.