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Among the Grass Sea, a Song of Ash | Gavin Yuan Gao

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

reflectionless shapes.

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.


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