still want to be here / impressions / dissonance

still want to be here 

I mistake the hot breath of saunas

for my mother’s hand. other times it’s the nursing home,

the old hag pissing herself

only inches away from the potty, thinking the floor

a wasteland. saliva stretches like cobwebs

from my retainer whenever remembrance

rolls around. I’m humping the diesel pump,

Nowell’s Shell Service, futility,

cul-de-sac job… the only way I can say

I want to love you, too without a word.

the bartender asks me why

I say the doorbell sounds furious. shrug,

blame everything on those Bourbons. under the fresco,

a man’s curious fingers canter on my back

while I wonder why the souvenir shop across the street

has a bite as sweet as rejection draping

over the balustrade. I show the tape

of my father boxing himself, each blow to the cheek

loving as boiling water; play last September’s recording

of mother lulling you’re dirtying the blanket,

fucking eejit, her shadow resting

on the shoulders of every stranger. hands sitting

where they don’t belong. to pay tribute she smears friction

onto a desolate slide. Forever and Always. and I tumble down,

the naked skin on my calf screaming

at something I can’t see, triggering the bawl.

the years behind us

sanction what lies ahead; I’m telling you I can never

hear a young laugh the same way again.


a girl’s bare heart

knocks on the road not taken. her jaws slap a redwood desk

like the silk of letters wrapping themselves

around the grey flavour of carrion.

but she will learn to call it sacrifice, or to swallow,

thinking it the chauffeur of saving; either way to never

be caught rubbing its back between thighs

when the door creaks. the grown man says

a poem holds nothing in its palms

except a mirage, the kind that unfastens us

from our coin-licking necks, only to be whipped

by a minister. behind the metro, vagrants chant

gojiguts. bananaclipper. no more funny words,

says the English teacher who scribbles over

a stanza overwhelmed with black blood

from the same old heart that hits

the ceiling fan twice a day. blue may grow a fresh arm

if she says so, hemp-green bills will stretch

on her count of three… that is what the mezzo reiterates,

viciously yanking the curtains closed.

when the hour kicks its feet up on banter,

she will let her hair down for her hair-tie

to sew the door shut, so they can stay inside to be gutted

with pages that slip to Idlewild,

pages that leave like tired slugs

once the bell breaks. I ask my father

if the alphabet should stay a mudskipper

panting in its briefcase. he will nod madly,

and let me down, head galloping, hands

stroking a safe, as if it were a question

of whether he’d lift his singlet

to reveal the graduate oath on his breast. a glass of water

distorts his eyesight. depending on where you lay,

it can also be the hot-bath of a mother’s livid whining

about how her son’s organs

have been eaten by language, how he’s given up

chewing at the fox-fur of FedEx, Ford factory, Nestle;

whinnying like a nervous reporter

while abandoned spines twist

like wrung clothes in the backdrop… we remain

on a lonely pier, where faces become

one of Monet’s lilies—nearly diminished,

almost part of something.


trust me   when I say

I am not you. I do not know who you are,

your likes   & dislikes, why you care

about this-that,   him-her,

why you cried   for hours on end

over  at Krakow, burying yourself

in the chest   of a room I can’t recall,

why you spread your lips   as leeway

for the con man. if you can believe it,

I call them stranger   & nothing else.

notice how warm the word feels

in your mouth. a month hurries out the gate

faster than you’d ever expect. so I’m still looking

for your ruined godmother, but I do know

that her hands   taste like December set on fire,

like the daylight that left   as soon as he did,

his absence   holding the world hostage.

are you disappointed?   at how

I still remember the waves

of his Chicano jaw. sometimes

your roommates are reflected

in my windshield. I’ve lost the montage.

I’ve lost the love-knot they tied

around your pelvis. I say things to myself

you should never hear. remember   your ear

is a ticket to the world until

you cut it off. but look, this is the face

weary   with distance. these   are the folds

you’ll want to clamp your fist down onto.

I know you do. one day   we will both

be fifty. you must be shocked,

but don’t worry — now   is not the time

to grieve. one day    you will understand

how the sundial warps everything,

filling the cracks   on your slippers,

its soles growing thicker

day   by day, while they ask me why

my heels snap   at a cold room

so rudely. I still don’t know the answer.

trust me when I say

you are nothing   but the child

that needs to stay asleep, for when you wake

you’ll realize that nothing bothered

to stay for you,

wait for me.

Aneska Tan is a student from Singapore who likes to write when she is not fighting her way through her studies. Her work appears in Rust + Moth and Riggwelter, among other journals. She hopes to own a writing hut someday, and in the after-hours you’ll usually find her wallowing in her inability to leave the house.