Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Chris Tse’s ‘Identikit’

Identikit

when asked to explain the lines that lead to now, you describe / 

the shape of your body as it hits water / the shape of cold water

shocking muscle / the shape of fleshy chambers forced to loosen

and acquiesce / the shape of your grandparents in their coffins /

the shape of coffins that are too small to contain entire lifetimes /

the soft and hard moments we can’t forget no matter how often we

turn our backs to the light / [you write this poem out of love / but

even love can be a blindfold] / the shape of you and your parents

standing in your grandparents’ driveway / after being kicked out

for talking to your aunty’s white boyfriend / your hand reaching

out to someone you don’t recognise in a dream / their silhouette

branded upon your brain / [you’ve tried to swallow the night and

all its inhabitants / but they weren’t designed for consumption] / the

night standing in for doubt / as you argue with your own memory /

waking up to the smell of 皮蛋瘦肉粥 / the shape of a bowl designed

to hold love / love that is never spoken of because to do so would

silence it / the shape of silence when you tell your parents you’ve

fallen in love with a white boy / the shape of that white boy pressed

against your body / both your hearts / shaped like hungry mouths /

the shape of your mouth biting into the world’s biggest egg / the

shape of years spent running before walking / your knees shredded

and bloody / even after you grew the thick skin they said you would

need in this lifetime / the years pass like a watched pot / but you imagine

steam rising from its wide open body / flashbacks to the shape of air

being forced into a lifeless body / some incisions are made to clean

blood, others to fast-forward a certain end / when your grandparents

spoke of life it was whatever came their way / no one back then had

time to hide behind the sky / to pull strings / to taste control / the shape

of control does not fit with the shape of effort / a grounded bird tries

to climb an invisible ladder to heaven / to correct a path the world

wouldn’t let it look upon / in case it traced a line too close to comfort /

we all fear the shape of comfort when it belongs to someone else /

forgetting that we all look the same buried six feet under / both your

grandparents appear before you on the night you learn how to take off

your blindfold / when you finally recognise the shape of acceptance /

and how it might fit among the ruins of your rejections / it goes like this: /

the fights, the kisses, the direct hits / unfolding yourself into a shape

the world doesn’t know how to contain / what doesn’t fit / what doesn’t

hold true / the shape of your name / the shape of a bowl that never

empties / all of these things fit together if you turn them the right way up /

you run your finger along the lip of the bowl and remember / what it

means to be laced in time and not know how to use your hands to feed

yourself / you count the years / you feel their shape flooding your

throat / making a noise / making a space for what’s to come

Chris Tse

Chris Tse is the author of the poetry collections How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC. He and Emma Barnes are co-editing an anthology of LGBTQIA+ and Takatāpui writers to be published by Auckland University Press in 2021. He also edits The Spinoff’s Friday Poem.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s