Renee Liang
New Zealand

A small poem written just before turning off the light and going to bed

        when I cannot
your breath

                    one lonely
                 dent remains
        in the



you have an island on your face
a patch of whiteness
floating across
your right temple

it blended in   your whole skin translucent
a freshly steamed
dumpling wrapper

at three months
the edges started      appearing
inconstant at first
blurring in and out of focus

but at nine months
the boundaries         are now clear
bays and beaches
harbours and estuaries

defined by a sundrenched golden sea
as your face        grows
into its shared history
of rice and olive groves

how strange then
that your island is caused
by a lack of migration


delayed at the border
their luggage misdirected
their families left waiting

now you have an i-land
to explore for yourself
or perhaps a lake
the veins swimming beneath

lithe little fish

what they don’t know about snow

snow in the morning tastes like sugar
and it’s warm if you snort it.

ducks. ducks hate snow
because it blindfolds the grass.

snow grows giants. You walk over it
and your prints get bigger through the day.

roses in snow look like
ladies in furs.

snow doesn’t hide the cracks,
it cushions them.

when snow gets sick, it gets angry
and hard, like ice.

angry snow hurts. It makes
going for a walk scary.

the men in orange jackets take scary snow away.
maybe it goes to prison, maybe they kill it.

the snow that’s left gets old and tired, even the snowmen.
eventually they shrivel up look just like rocks. And that’s the end of the snow


you swim
between islands
dive for words
sunken treasure

read the pulsation
of jellyfish
forget you can’t
breathe underwater

what you call memories
others call dreams

you reach out
too far
and wake.

she once learnt
to tell the direction
of the wind
by wetting her finger

holding it up
to the sky
trying to understand
what cold was

now she’s been
to Antarctica

but still
she finds
most navigation

she learnt
the valves
are tethered
like parachutes

that heart attacks
called infarctions
sound like
rude noises

that blood must balance
on both sides

and that
a healthy heart
tilts face upwards
like a question.

inside the liver
there are many suns
an inland river
ships and towns

factories and abattoirs
smelters and
storage towers
for sugar

a small girl standing
at a frosted window

her finger
a smiley face
on glass.

that first day
she stood alone
in the playground
wet the wood chips

the following week
some big boys
pushed her
she lost her first tooth

after that she learnt
to keep her mouth shut

her words whole
later spat them out
in silence.

the principle of
exchange is like
two lovers kissing

in tongues
limbs looped
in anticipation

the old Toyota
a warm uterus

to grow
new fruit
new dreams
new life.

How I find the time to write

I collect
small droplets of silence
merge them on my tongue
plant small words like daisies
weave them into garlands
offer this to a woman
diving off a cliff
daisies falling before her
a half circle of nail polish
on her toes
as she turns
to look back.

Biography Renee Liang
Renee, a second-generation Chinese Kiwi, is a poet, playwright, paediatrician, medical researcher and fiction writer. Renee has collaborated on visual art works, film and music, produced and directed theatre works, worked as a dramaturge, taught creative writing and organized community-based arts initiatives. She organises community arts events such as New Kiwi Women Write, a writing workshop series for migrant women. She contributes to The Big Idea which links NZ's arts community. Renee has written, produced and toured six plays: Lantern, The Bone Feeder, Under The Same Moon, Bubblelands, The Quiet Room, and The First Asian AB. The Two Farting Sisters, a kids’ play, was made with Petit Workshop in 2015.

i- lands - Renee Liang
SHE - Renee Liang
The Island - Rosie Whinray - 2015