After the act, we lie abandoned in the arms of
our own shadows—those crueler parts
of ourselves whose existence that we, if
given a choice, would adamantly refute
even as we turn our faces away from their twisted
The wind shuffles the mist’s
pale foliage. Nothing stirs
except the half-ruined meadow in my mind—
bones of hibiscus, flitting silhouettes
of sparrowhawks—now that I feel nothing
but cold-desire-turned-pity for the man
fast asleep beside me, his skin glacial & sharp
as a dagger to look at.
What’s left of the light
after risk has turned the flesh into a form
of violence? The sun spreads thick
as rumour, like blood glinting darkly
in the mouths of the slaughtered innocent
steeped in the dream of a peace
the grass sea has come to chiefly embody—no less blunt
than restraint, more blue than surrender—waves of grass
heaving past the pleated border of every sigh
the night alludes to as inevitable
in its wordless passing.
Ink drops eavesdropping
on the page gone restless with dawn. Not the kind of kindling
any memory can sharpen into flames, nor the song
of ash the field will sing as it singes its way towards
the sky, but the field itself—its body answerable to any crimes
of transformation—as it withers into a carcass of light.
As the dark conquers the field, what stirs
rouses no shadow or ghost in the field’s darkening patience:
Lamb’s ears. Larkspurs. Risked. Surrendered.
Gavin Yuan Gao (they/xe) is a genderqueer poet based in Meanjin. They are the winner of the 2020 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Their debut poetry collection, At the Altar of Touch, is forthcoming from the University of Queensland Press.