by Jody Chan
BWR 47.2 Poetry Contest winner
home. clouded recollections, neighbours silent as a blown fuse.
houses in a blank-eyed row. I’m always six when I lie here, inhaling dust from a time I can’t remember. dad smoking downstairs, the scent of rice sharp as a mother’s heart. those classroom years, every day sick
to my toenails, vomit coating the bowl. I hid my words behind the blue door of childhood, craving the warmth of her, chest to chest, or a familiar doll
to sleep. back here I sleepwalk, rub their legs with soap, doll by doll.
I turn on every blow-dryer in the house. I smell her footsteps when the fuse burns. I never learned to bike, to open the garage door
and go. outside the window, a brick wall. a blue dream only this bedroom’s dust could tell. she likes the television for its noise. she wants me when I’m sick.
she tells me so. she would never leave him. she forgives his cold rice
at the table. I count her pores, one for each grain of rice
I can’t finish, two for each time she says don’t tell, presses a wet doll
to my lips. years later, not long ago, I down the blue pills just as slow, as sick with the shame of pleasure. miles of ribboned memory, a lit fuse.
my new lover kisses me on these same sheets, drowns us both in dust.
lost time buried under skin, hair, dirt. they lick my teeth. I watch the door.
time licks my hair, buries me under teeth, skin, dirt. lost, I watch the door years later. my not-long-ago lover kisses me on sheets of rice,
skin ribboned with the pain of pleasure. memory lights miles of dust, lifts it to my lips. I down the blue pills slow as smoke, one for every doll
she made me finish, two for each time she said don’t tell, pressed a wet fuse to my legs. I count her pores, her stories, each grain of sick
she leaves me. she would never tell him. she forgives his cold sick noise. she turns on like a television. she knows my desire is a door I’ll go through. outside the dream, a window. this bedroom’s fuse
blows the brick walls open. as a boy I would have learned to bike, to burn rice, rage the whole house blue. instead, her footsteps, the blow-dried dolls
cleaner than soap. sleepwalking, I rubbed my doll legs to dust.
my whole childhood I craved a familiar warmth, to sleep on her chest. dust coated the door. vomit on my toenails. I hid my heart behind the sick, sharp as a mother’s years. those classroom days, every word a ragdoll
from a time I lied, lied, lied. the scent of smoke downstairs, dad closing the door. six houses like a row of eyes. I go blank when I speak, when I smell rice,
when I come home. the neighbours in their windows. memory silent as a blown fuse.
Jody Chan is a writer, drummer, organizer, and therapist based in Toronto/Tkaronto. They are the author of haunt (Damaged Goods Press), all our futures (PANK), and sick, winner of the 2018 St. Lawrence Book Award and 2021 Trillium Book Award for Poetry. They can be found online at https://www.jodychan.com/.