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Jennifer Wong




In the morning before the schoolbus came
you pressed and folded into my small palm
four dollar coins.

You were a tall woman in a blue nightgown
and I was just this       anyothergirl
with a pink rucksack, who dreamt
of         birthday sleepovers and piano lessons
I’d never had. I felt a lump walking down

the bright avenue outside school
lined with other parents’ cars (fleece of clouds
resting on the window glass) and how

I’d like to take my mind
off you: your hard-boiled eyes
and your cast iron discipline.

Mother, remember that dessert house
in the market you took me to?
Their faded walls. The hawker shouts.
A sago pudding shared

I hoarded up within my heart
all these years you never called.
I had to believe
in some kind of love.
I had to imagine.

And I knew you’d be jealous
to find me, a mother of two
wading through the oceans
to a far shore,
better than you.

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‘At one time, I dreaded everything I was making.’
Yayoi Kusama (Winter 1999)

First it is a measling of the tablecloth
later it spills
all colours, all gaiety:
desk     floor    lamp    flowers
tatami, my underwear

then dares to paw across
Mother’s face, so

Twenty years
in a twelve square metre room
and the thuds of tennis balls
the only music

tells me
that suffering
is necessary

and more powerful
than healing

and I wish
to cover all territory
for once – hospital walls, chinaware,
bed linen, your bland skin

with the pattern and fear of all my dots –
by the old wharf on Naoshima
I make my yellow wartime pumpkins.

I know my home is not a country anymore,
just a festering colony of the mind:

these shuddering trees
that come and talk to me each night,
the whispers of the white nurses
and the star-dances
of my Japanese kaleidoscope.
Come haunt me still. Do what you may.
I won’t return. I’m not afraid.

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Originally from Hong Kong, Jennifer Wong is a poet, freelance writer and translator. Her poems have appeared in journals including Forgmore Papers (forthcoming), TATE ETC, Aesthetica, Warwick Review, Orbis, Cha, Glass Poetry, Iota, and New Writer. Her poetry collection, SUMMER CICADAS, was published by Chameleon Press. She graduated from Oxford with an English degree and took an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia, UK. She now lives in London and is working on her first novel and second collection.

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ucity review