Serendipity

Was I born a masochist or did society make me this way?

Tag: poetry

On coming home 17 years later

My friend wrote this lovely poem~ Original post here.

When I was five my parents moved us to New Zealand.

I learned how to say Aotearoa before I knew how to write my own name in Chinese.

I knew how to spell New Zealand before I ever knew how to write the two characters that read ‘Taiwan’.

Yet I was always reminded of one thing:

Even if you grew up there, your skin is still yellow; they’ll never see you as one of them.

Don’t forget where you came from.

I know this because I’ve spent my life listening to people

yell go back to your country

from car windows when I walk down the street

and I want to yell back “this is my country, I know no other”.

I will always be immigrant in their eyes.

Politicians spit Chinese, spit foreign like we have not brought wealth;

like we have not paid dearly in both currency and dignity to make this place home.

I have heard the words bloody asians more than enough times,

so don’t worry, I’ll never forget where I came from.

Taiwan, I say, when people ask.

I’m from Taiwan.

But I wish they didn’t feel the need to ask.

Two years ago I moved to Taiwan.

(Or should I say back to Taiwan?)

My mother says when she looks at the sky here she sees her youth floating past,

and she knows the streets we walk down by heart.

She hears home in each step she takes.

She did not want to leave 17 years ago.

It was here, too, that I drew my first breath, spoke my first word, took my first step, learned the word home.

But I was torn from my soil as a sapling, and now my roots have all dried –

slice them open with a pocketknife and nothing spills out.

But if  you cut open my veins I will bleed pohutukawa flowers.

I will bleed the salt waters of the south pacific ocean, childhoods at the beach fighting with seagulls,

and an expanse of long white clouds.

I will bleed quiet night skies filled with stars, the damp smell of bush walks in the Waitakere Ranges,

and the taste of cold L&P.

People here tell me how lucky I am to know how to speak English but

How do I tell them I wish I could exchange my tongue for one that matches my skin?

How do I tell them that when I try to speak Chinese, I often opt for silence because I struggle too hard to find the words;

I guess I just misplaced them when we crossed an ocean all those years ago.

How do I tell them that when I try to write Chinese, my pen is like a lost explorer, depressed and drunk;

each stroke is a maze that he cannot fathom so he sits down to cry.

How do I tell them I wish I could write the intricate characters telling stories in the language that should be carved into the walls of my brain?

My grandfather told me that each Chinese character evolved from a picture and each picture tells a story.

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, and there are over 50,000 Chinese characters,

there are 50 million stories to be told.

50 million stories I do not know.

I have only 26 letters to rearrange, but they work with me,

use my tongue as diving boards,

fall from my lips like fearless skydivers,

deliver my thoughts like practised messengers.

Nowadays I avoid mentioning that I don’t belong

but when people ask me what city I’m from I don’t know what to say.

I was born in Taipei

but Auckland nurtured me with its gentle fingers.

Auckland taught me peace,

taught me how blue the sky can be

taught me, how it feels to take off your shoes and run barefoot in the grass.
Do I say Auckland or Taipei?

I’m not going to point out that I’m out of place

but I can’t claim this city as home and

I don’t know how to talk my way out of this one and oh no my words are tripping over my teeth on their way out again.

I wish I could say what I’m trying to say in English –

no i’m not saying I’m better because I speak another language –
I’m sorry.
I wish I was one of you.

And when I say I miss home I’m not saying I don’t love my birthplace,

it’s just that the definition of home has always been fluid and

my search for belonging has made me an albatross,

gliding along the shoreline on switching currents,

my feet never touching land.

And even though I finally look like I’m home now –

a dark haired, yellow skinned puzzle piece that’s turned up as last,

my edges don’t quite fit as well as I’d hoped.

So I tell my parents I don’t think this is home and this city is a stranger to me,

and that it makes me want to run because they’ve always warned me against the unknown.

I tell them that before I left Auckland,

I ground my heart into sand and let the wind carry it away

so New Zealand would always have a piece of me

and now when my friends walk along the beach there,

I feel each footprint in my chest.

I tell them the sky in this city is thick with a collective memory that I cannot access,

and when I reach out to those around me I only grab empty air –

but my father insists that I’m home now and so I say

I’m home now.

170

this time last year
i was your lover’s ghost
it wasn’t long till your hands slipped
and when you threw me against the wall
my head cracked open
blood splattered on the musty plaster
unveiling all our flaws

this time last year
you had me down on my knees
confessing to a life of sin and tragedy
you picked me up and dusted me clean
held my hand and watched me scream
i woke up to your smiling face
and loved you an eternity

this time last year
you taught me a brilliant lie
if you want someone to stay
whisper i love you in the most sincere voice
promise to heal and make sure you take
steal their heart then cast it away
keep her in her place

Histories

I never asked for love. Love was something that came to me as surely as ocean waves, and equally lacking in origin. It brought lust and jealousy, and eventually, hate. I have asked for pain, unrelenting discipline. I have been damned to eternity by your broken promises and easy lies. I know for certain that these sins will not be washed away with time and my sanity will not return at dusk.

I have sinned, I have taken vows in negligence and removed myself from responsibilities carved within. I have fallen, I have lied my way to better days and told you only what you wanted to hear, not what needed to be said.

I kissed your lips, I tasted mint, I tasted Spring and all your forgotten promises, vanished into thin air the moment your arms lifted from her hips. I held my breath, through the games and the tales you didn’t try hard enough to embellish. I wanted to win, ignoring the costs and indulging in my own ignorance. I read the signs but I might as well have been blind.

I have become pale and thin like the girls who look like ghosts instead of faeries, and every time I smile, my memory of yours fades further away till all I see are traces of your violent words scattered across our borders, choking me back, keeping me still.

I have shown you my world, all of it sin and madness. I tell you I have a soul as black as coal and you can’t light a fire in my heart without burning me to the ground. I begged you not to.

I can feel you in the air even when you are nowhere to be found. I have your old t-shirt hidden in the back of my closet, and I pretend its not there when I’m hunting for a new dress to impress my old lovers.

I show them old wounds to ward off new dangers, and though I have bled my share for you, it was not enough. You demanded more but I had nothing left to offer. I was lost in your soliloquies and I am still hiding in the mists of your neglect, your false comforts.

I have served you whiskey straight from the bottle and pretended not to notice your drunken slurs spelling the wrong name. I have sold my darkest hours for a few seconds of hearing you breathe steadily next to me. I traded my darkest secrets to feel the pulse through your veins. I danced to your heartbeat. 

I remember all your weakness and even at your strongest you were never brave enough to be honest with yourself. I sold your troubles for a ticket down memory lane and swallowed every bitter pill just to learn your name.

All that risky business we liked to call love was only selfish lust pretending to be wise. I held your hand when we ran in the rain and you pretended not to notice my tears. They tasted like the ocean. They tasted like our histories.

Someone wrote me a poem…

sometimes, late at night, i think of you when i really should be sleeping
i rarely sleep, mostly due to insomnia,
but sometimes i’m not sure if it’s that or the fact that i am breathlessly waiting for a chance to talk to you
and talking to you is painful
terrifying
and exciting
the discomfort is totally worth it when i get a laugh or a smile or, my god, a “you’re adorable!”
it’s worth even when there’s no response and i panic and assume i’ve said something too awkward to overlook

sometimes, late at night, i think about kissing you,
when i really should be sleeping,
and wonder how your lips would feel against mine
(and abruptly remember that i lost my chapstick ages ago and never bothered to replace it)
if you would taste like cigarattes
if i would like it

sometimes, late at night, i think of you
in the most innocuous fashion
and just want to know how your day has been
when i have absolutely no business being awake

 

late night thoughts | Penn Manship

157

Well baby
I remember when I was freezing and you put your hand on top of mine
The chills disappeared for eight perfect months
Then you took back every warm word I rested my heart on
I never imagined that two hours was enough time to turn someone from a lover to a beggar
I saw you smile when I unravelled like broken strings
Don’t you just adore the way love can burn
It hurts so damn good

Well honey
I remember those tears we both shed when we were tired of screaming
There were no real winners in that last game
Only bloodstained memories
I counted your flaws and ran out of hands
I called you a pig and asked if she was pretty down on her knees
I’m still apologising to myself
For missing the feel of your skin
I’m still hating myself
For how easy it was to let you touch me

Well darling
It’s 2 am again and I’m not calling
This time I’ll keep my loneliness to myself
Pour another cup of tea and pretend you’re sleeping alone
When I know you’re holding a warm body
The way you used to hold my hand
I don’t miss you
I don’t miss you

153

i am creating a revolution
with skin and bones
still unbroken, untainted by scars that threatened to win

i am cleaning the residue
stained memories
silent evidence of who we could have been

i am drawing a picture
frames of disjointed past
seeking redemption for mistakes you pushed me to make

i am living a life
with no shoulders to lean on
tired of the blind leading the blind

i am hoarding sins
no one is here to save me
from the masochist who craves destruction

i am composing melodies
lullabies don’t lull me to sleep
the way your voice did

i am fighting fire
with fire
tearing down walls of insincere apologies

i am cheating death
leaving only ashes
to deal with unanswered questions 

i am luring loneliness
carved from leftover heartache
it will take more than a lifetime to forget me

152

Remember his soft blonde curls, the way his lips opened to steal the breath from yours. How he always smiled like he knew a secret, and the way he understood the value of people but never their worth.

Remember the nights because they were the hardest, with no distractions to protect you from dangerous thoughts. The way his hands knew exactly how to please you, but every word that he spoke turned into a curse.

Remember the days when the sun was bright but your home was covered in clouds of his anger and nothing could tame the nature of his violent spirit. How the children’s laughter never amused him and nothing you did ever made him less bitter.

Remember the vows you repeated after one another, when love seemed stronger than your doubts and he had promised you a future. The wine had tasted sweet but the hangover was torture, the veil had been lifted and it was too late to leave the monster.

Remember the lies, the women, the drinking and the pills. The phone calls, the chases, the diamonds and the will. When it stopped mattering whether you left or stayed, when right and wrong rested on who he chose to blame.

So sign the papers and leave the past behind. Shut the doors and open a new chapter of your life. Remember how to smile without the taste of blood in your mouth, and teach your children how to love without leaving destruction in their wake.

145

I find love everywhere, I see it in every corner, I seize it at every chance. I find it in your eyes, when you stare at me with such stunning intensity that I almost believed it meant something. There was hardly enough time for us to get to know one another, but when I woke up next to you that morning and didn’t miss him anymore, I knew you were my bliss.

I find it in your lips, when you kissed me so sweetly I had to remind myself the softer it was, the stronger the poison. I never intended for you to be different but somehow I felt protected for those precious moments when you weren’t afraid to touch me. I let myself drift to sleep with a smile on my face, dreaming about happier times.

I find it in your arms, when you held me so lightly I wanted you to grab my throat so I could feel my survival instincts kick in. I wanted you to leave bruises so I could remember each time you pretended I mattered. I wanted it to hurt and I needed the pain to have substance. I wanted you to erase my past and teach me how to start over again. 

I find it in your words, even though you treasure them and utter so few, I try so hard to listen, terrified I’ll miss something important. I look for hints and chances that maybe this could lead to more faith in some twisted way because that’s how I live; I rely on wishful thinking.

I find it in the air, when everything else feels unimportant, when the bare essentials that allow us to trudge through the drudgery flow with sincerity and your smile reminds me to keep breathing. I don’t know how to live with being lonely, but lying in the wrong arms feels worse than being alone.

I find it in your presence, the calm, the serenity, everything you bring me so effortlessly, everything that makes you one of a kind. I want to learn how to be that peaceful, how to be less hateful, how to return to the basics and empathise with the pointlessness of it all, how we’re all suffering equally in a way because it all ends the same. We try, we fail, we die, we rot. All is not fair in love and war, but all is fair in life and death.

I find it in this empty bed, as I wonder how good it would feel to be lying next to you again. I rested my head on your chest and my mind escaped. I wrapped my legs around yours, indulging myself in all the small ways I still have left.

I find it in every lit cigarette, in every tar filled breath, because deep down I’ve always been a little dirty. Sometimes the things that destroy us attract us the most, sometimes we aren’t very smart about who or what we love, but sometimes that’s okay.

I find it in the way you played with my hair, when you considered pulling it but decided not to, because we didn’t know each other that well yet.  I find it in the goosebumps that rise when I feel your hot breath against my neck and I pretend my breathing is even so you’ll think I’m sleeping. I found it in our last kiss, maybe our last kiss ever, and I just wanted to thank you for taking a chance on me.

144

Last year, you broke my spine when you spat out the words “I don’t love you anymore”, and I cowered under the table while you tore our lives apart. The seams were drenched in my blood, you threw the shreds at my feet and watched me weep.

I had grown to love the mug that was big enough for two, and even when I threw it at the ground I knew I was destroying a piece of myself too. I wish we hadn’t fused our lives together so eagerly, now there are too many things that remind me of you.

I ran my nails down the small of your back and dug them deep into your skin, wanting to leave a mark but knowing it would fade too quickly to leave any lasting impression. I drew my name onto your chest and whispered “Please don’t leave, not yet, please just stay” but she wiped me away and you told me it was too late.

Those last few months we had soldiered on like it was our duty to be calm and twisted. I confess, I had read so many love stories I thought we’d be strong enough to move mountains. But the truth came crashing down when it became obvious, we couldn’t even climb a hill without pointing fingers and appointing blame.

I spent New Years Eve cleaning out my closet, throwing out the ugly shirts you thought I looked good in, while the songs we used to listen to filled up my thoughts without my permission and one glass of wine had me drowning in reminiscence. I risked a glance at the mirror and saw a skinny girl with holes in her eyes instead of windows. Suit up, put on your armour, this is gonna hurt.  

This year I will learn how to be alone. I will become accustomed to the silence, to the absence of phone calls and text messages, to never seeing your name on my screen again. I will forge emails that feign forgiveness, learn a new sort of redemption, and promise not to harm another soul by cruel omission.

You will always be the strongest burden, the rock that tries to pull me under while I’m learning to swim. I sought you out in all the darkness and now you’ve stolen my light. Somewhere, someone is blowing out my candles.

I discovered a new name and find I prefer it. I left behind my old mistakes, drawing attention away from my scars with black nail polish and bright red lipstick.

This year our war won’t hurt so much, you’ll kiss a new set of lips and I’ll try to forget the way you tasted so cool and sweet during the summer we spent together. When winter comes my legs will be wrapped around our old tangled sheets and he’ll say my name the wrong way. I’ll think about you and imagine her, all her softness pressed against your strength, I’ll wonder how long it’ll take you to break her.

When you fall from the stairs and break your leg, they put you in a comfortable bed and mend your bones. But when I fell from your arms and broke my heart, no one taught me how to keep breathing. The way you say my name makes me weak, and there are not enough things that remind me of you.

141

let me tell you about the time
he passed a cigarette and accidentally burnt my skin
but instead of saying sorry he laughed
at my clumsiness and
told me to be more careful next time

let me tell you about the time
he made me coffee and never asked if i took milk or sugar
and I drank it black with a grimace
too grateful to complain
but I knew he noticed anyway

let me tell you about the time
when I leaned in then regretted my sin
because he was still too far to kiss
but it was too late to leave with nothing
so i hugged him awkwardly

let me tell you about the time
i caught him staring at the scar on my leg
but never stopped to ask me what happened
I suppose he simply didn’t care
maybe that’s the worst injury

136

When the girl stumbles into your life with eyes that glitter and blood stained lips that demand to be kissed, do not love her; look past the sparkles and shades, the cashmere scarves and stilettos sharp as needlepoint. Do not fall for her innocent smile and demure demeanor, she is not an open book that is safe for you to read. She will trap you with her words and steal the breath from your lungs for comic relief. She will smell like a poisonous flower, sickeningly sweet, and the scent will linger long after she leaves you for another. She will leave them too.

Do not mistake her for your happy ending, do not seek to understand what you cannot begin to comprehend. Do not follow her footsteps when she remembers how to run. You will trip and bones will break, and she won’t have the patience to stay by your side while they mend. Do not call her baby, or sweetheart, or darling. She will laugh at your amateur attempts to lure her into intimacy, and the taste of betrayal from old lovers will cut like ice and you will freeze.

You’re not the one she wants, not even the one she needs. Do not give her the chance to break your heart in her lonely quest for vengeance.

But when the girl comes to you, hiding tears behind her lashes, grant her mercy and show her the path that leads to forgiveness. A monster stole her happiness and left her with a rotting body and a decaying heart; but she is a survivor, she will find peace.

133

I had fallen a long way
To tell you not to come after me
Softly slowly silently you stole what you never intended to keep
Left it on the kitchen counter
I have looked under all the knives
Trying to find old demons to hunt you down with
But all I found were petty mistakes
Our first kiss
My only pleasant memory
He accused me of smiling too much
With such sincerity you should have been a witness so you could learn
It’s impolite to put out cigarettes on fresh wounds
Still bleeding, I told my therapist and he called you selfish
I called your mother and she told me she loves you no matter what you did
I have not been able to lie in bed without feeling my bones ache and kicking invisible enemies
I have been seeing death in every mirror, every window
Telling me it’s time to leave

127

What is your name
The one your mother called you before you were born
That no one else knew about
Who were you supposed to be
A lover or a friend
How did you find me
I was not seeking
For a love that would destroy me
When you left you broke my universe
Will you let me come back
Would you hurt me again so I’ll feel alive once more
Nostalgia haunts me
Now that you’re gone
I have written your name on my spine
That’s all they’ll see when they grab my throat
He knows
It won’t stop him
Please lead me back to you
Before he hurts me differently
You won’t be around when he inflicts real bruises
When every punch leaves purple or black
Will you save me again
Pretend to care even a little
A kiss with a fist is still better than none

102

Do you ever wake up
Roll over to touch me
And realise I’m not there

Do you ever sleep
Try to hold me closer
And only grab thin air

Do you ever think
What you could be missing
Might be worth the fear

Do you ever dream
Of a happily ever after
A life we might have shared

Do you ever listen
For the sound of my voice
Whispering in your ear

Do you ever feel
A twinge of regret silenced by
Uncompromising despair

Do you ever follow
A lover’s harsh advice
And stop to think twice

 

Do you really believe
That the heart can mend
By sharing another’s bed

94

I should have kissed you harder. I should have left a mark. I should have shook your shoulders till the world was unbalanced and you listened to your heart.

I should have held you tighter. I should have seen your flaws. I should have urged you sooner to question your absurd definitions of love.

I should have laughed louder. I should have altered the tone. I should have realised there was too much of you I could never own.

I should have looked closer. I should have seen the signs. I should have recognised the lies you told because you thought you were mine.

I should have loved another. I should have made you pay. I should have understood the insincerity and walked away.

I should have cut deeper. I should have dug the blade into my bones. I should have watched the pain flow out and left you all alone.