blackmail press 21
Lynette Leong
New Zealand/Hong Kong/Malaysia

crossed cultures - special issue
In the new land

we stray souls go wandering
looking for a likely friend
amidst pale trees that taught us to speak
that teach us still to speak
in words our parents cannot understand

we wander further still
we cannot see the sky anymore
not the stars for navigation
not the moon for time
not the clouds for drink

there is no night

only the constant gloam
of the heart
of the pale forest

and the cries of birds from stories
that are not our own.

but now and then
there is a glimpse of a silver something
brighter than the white arms that hold the sky

and suddenly

on our lips

almost forgotten

a trace of lotus nut


of duck yolk

of fat


and thick

on the tongue.

Tea Party

You’ve shunned the bears,
too hairy, you say,
and sit with your five girls before you
all smiling.
They are, in order of height
and, coincidentally, length of blond hair:
Rosalie, Rosie, Rosalind, Rosalina,
and Jemima the ugly.

Oh, Jemima. She has
a mouth permanently placed in a smiling pucker;
she has
a cord coming out of her bum that you
can pull to make her talk;
she has
blue black hair and a stretching birthmark
where the felt pen leaked on her forehead;

she peers
through slits, because her eyelids got stuck
testing how fast she could

She reminds you

of old aunty
who sucks the last of
the condensed milk straight from the can
when she thinks no one’s looking,
tells your mother the truth about
how fat she is and what other things
you can do with chopsticks,

laughs louder, longer
than anyone you know,
a wheeling seagull on new wind.

You wouldn’t have had her over at all
except she’s the only one who
can talk, and there’s only so many
times you can nod and smile and
hai-yah, hai-yah
your way through tea.

Featured Artist Fiona Holding
Lynette Leong was born in Auckland and is of Hong Kong and Malaysian Chinese descent. She has previously appeared in blackmail press and Spectrum 1: An Anthology of Short Stories by New Graduate Writers.