Poem: Chris Tse

Present tension

Winter claims your shoulders first. Your neck tenses.
You side-step a dead hedgehog that keeps getting moved
from pavement to gutter and back again, like the world’s
simplest but least sanitary chess game. Back and forth
until someone concedes, or when the corpse falls apart.
There’s no strength in numbers when the number is one.
Waiting for a bus at this time of the year is like cycling
through the stages of grief, and there’s always a cup of tea
at the end of it. You keep telling yourself: Remember,
there was light yesterday, and sound too
. The guy next to you
mumbles something about a sandy beach, or maybe
it’s a sandy bitch. Your focus cracks in this cold.
The overhead wires hum. The cellphone orchestra stabs.
Your body has never embraced the sounds of the present.
Maybe you’ll start to make an effort when you separate
necessity from decency. Of course, no one cares which
way you jump. Throw your voice to frame your fingers.
Throw your frame around the moon. Look back from
that lock and ask our world to be reasonable. Ants and
speckles. Toe-dips and smudges. Why bother undoing
when time comes back around to bite you in the arse?
Chris Tse is a poet and writer from Wellington, New Zealand. His writing has recently appeared in FishHead, Sport, Cordite Poetry Review, and IKA. His first book of poems, How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes (Auckland University Press, 2014), revisits the murder of a Cantonese miner in Wellington in 1905.

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