Even / the apples were poison.
‘A Unified Berlin’, Ann Townsend
The fruit hangs low, russet and ripe,
the trunk grown thick on the other side.
What’s yours is yours: there is no mine.
My roots will not slake your thirst.
The sky, cerulean; the sea, wine-dark.
Your eyes are open, but you are blind.
We hunger—we bite. You devour the harvest.
I spit out my mouthful: it’s bitter, and rotten.
Better to starve, to become smaller and smaller.
Fruit by fruit, the wall bloats, and widens.
I imagine a gutted fish,
silvery skin gleaming, emptied of itself.
Hands in the sink, metal teeth
raking scales, water running from the tap.
Spine embedded in pale flesh,
translucent fins limp on the cutting board.
Slice ginger, shallots, and chillies;
make cuts on both sides of the carcass.
Drizzle rice wine and soy sauce;
place the whole fish into an enamel dish
and lower onto a metal trivet
perched over boiling water in the wok.
Put the lid on. Set the timer for
twelve slow minutes. The fish is ready
when its eyes turn a blind white.
Each steaming mouthful is salty and sweet.
I am careful to spit out the bones.
I will not choke on the taste of surrender.
The first two lines and the last word of this poem were taken from the poem ‘On Anger’ by Rage Hezekiah.
Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet who was born in Singapore of Chinese descent. She is the author of eight books. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous prizes, including twice for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. She is published by Pitt Street Poetry in Sydney, Recent Work Press in Canberra, and George Braziller in the USA. www.eileenchong.com.au