'Not one sucks the fear out of me'
still just, no longer legible on the toilet wall.
I see him, back for a while from Nam,
blond, tall and tittering from tattered nerves

in the shadows of The Strip. Neon
slashes longing. Time clots. Searching
for my dark girl from The Hague
you fondle who'll ride you for a handful of rice.

Are you rotting in a noose or, through one of those
godforsaken places, racing your empty taxi home?
Your last sentence, my first, the same kind:
The hole, always, everywhere that one and only woman.


City of idle hours, named after muddy
rivers which, like us, meet here in silence.
City in the grip of homesick blond clerks,
taken by mineworkers from all of Asia.

Clothes stick to the body, as in our house
with the roll-down shutters you always wanted closed.
Just as there: grey sky, tightly stretched membrane.
The dry clicks from the cricket field; heads

rolling into baskets. Going astray enlightens. In the sum
of misunderstandings, in the Brickfields of Indiatown,
I kneel before the neon of a commanding language,
digging for tin in your exhausted lap.


Here too the possibilities, like totems,
soar into a sky of glass and steel,
traffic rushes through us like time,
builder's cranes tighten in the memory.

But at night, with us beyond ourselves, all
energy convulses in a cramp, we bow,
numbed at the travesty of Bugis Street,
for the lap of the deathly quiet city,

and bite into the flesh of the fruit. God
is a hypothetical point on the spiral
of our longing. We bite down on
cities, masks, poems. And bite through.


Paper rustles. A cockroach creeps from news papers
that remained new. Our landlady asks her father
something in Chinese. He shakes his head
almost imperceptibly, keeps on stirring his tea.

The year which our family never talks about
ripples open: rolled-up money, ampoules and lists
of names from Glodok. My new aunt embraces
him, stares for help. I am only ten but write

what I can: 'She buried the books, undid her
hair and put on the white dress in the outhouse,
where they found her, and did not let her go again.'
Grandma is the small cup, tinkling in his hand.

Atunis Galaxy Anthology 2020
Translation: John Irons
Editor in Chief: Agron Shele
Editors: Dr. Maria Miraglia, Dr. Muhammad Shanazar, Lek Pervizi