One of the most enriching, forward-thinking, fastest-growing online creative communities flourishing right now is the Poetry community, especially in those scenes that center on marginalized voices — Women, POC, Neurodivergent, and LGBTQ. Poetry Spotlight is a feature aiming to showcase the work of some of the most talented creators we’ve discovered making waves on the Internet literary circles, inside or outside the mainstream. Installment 26 is dedicated to the poetry of Joyce Chong.
Joyce lives in Ontario, Canada. Her work can be found in Spy Kids Review, Hypertrophic Literary, and Noble Gas Qtrly, among others. She is a contributing editor for Wildness Magazine’s weekly column, the Wilds. Her micro-chapbooks Inventory and Dream-like Houses are currently available from Ghost City Press.
Your hands are graceless
they are impatient skeleton,
cracked soap, split driftwood,
blue salted fire, advanced
decomposition. What I mean is
your hands are hurricanes, or
I mean that I am lost already & this
is rubble already. There’s no one
to shoot the starter pistol, to yell
go, to set the timers, to decide
beginnings when we are
always ending, anyway.
I mean that your hands are like mine:
they fumble calloused, grasp
too tight, too uncertain of their
or vein / vessel / blood / flesh)
but that they are a live wire
an angler fish’s bulb; that they
lure, entrap / burn fuel / ditch
breath / seize lungs. I mean that
we are destined for destruction,
clumsy & corrosive; that these hands
don’t know how to build, can’t mend
themselves the way starfish regenerate
departed limbs; what I mean is,
our hands are volatile; and they
only know deconstruction.
I just mean the tallest fences.
I’d felt myself splintering
through the cracks in the wood,
coming out brick-dusted and opaque
and still I couldn’t recognize the thing
on the other side. Not those limbs,
or my limbs, or the flesh of the trees.
I’d forgotten neck from
spinal cord, misplaced trachea
for the hollow bones of a bird.
I’d tried to make voice from metal, bit down
hard the cool sting of copper; my tongue nothing
but trace fragment.
I was split thin to collarbone, but this whistling
storm outside, how it wanted to be in my throat,
in my breath. How I caught lungs until I forgot myself,
saw the blade stuck in cheek, not the blood
on the floor, just the glint from the lights
overhead. How they rung in the quiet,
but I’d gorged on all my voices and now
the silence was a lakebed & / I’d found
myself / shipwrecked at the bottom
my mother tongue
in my mouth,
vernacular bleached out
my mother tongue
is trace fragment,
an unspoken secret;
it is fracture, it is liminal
attraction and repulsion
stagnated by geography,
by incline and by
six feet of earth.
my mother tongue is a slope I stumble to
gain balance on / is a walk on stilts
with metal jaws locked to my ankles-
is digested while I am consumed;
my mother tongue is decomposing
in the sunlight / a snake attempting
to untangle tail from mouth / jaw
too weak to bite, fangs dull
from blotted memory.
I try to fit my teeth around the shape,
the sound of anomaly,
the taste of loosened screws
and brass tarnish, but when i
reach, its shape defies memory;
it is rounder, larger, and rewritten
on my teeth.
my mother tongue is a ghost I sigh
into life, try to piece its ridges,
smile / show you how I fit
this mother tongue
show you how I wield
these unlearned blades,
as unfamiliar as they are
[“Your hands are graceless” first appeared in issue 3 of Wildness Magazine; “Not Lost” was previously published in Sea Foam Magazine; “Attrition” was originally released as part of Noble/Gas Qtrly’s Issue 203.3]