To sing the evening home, the lover prepares
a pot of lentil stew – her phone lighting up to
the news of love’s imminent arrival, imagining
her lover’s footsteps across the swollen field,
damp with longing, her lover’s steady hand
gripping her smartphone to navigate towards
some notion of home, their flat an unfamiliar
place of worship, their bodies growing close
and moving apart with the regularity of heart-
beat, blood-breath. There the lover is, running to
catch a bus she knows will take her somewhere
so she can feel once again the sensation of lack –
wondering at her lover’s motions throughout the flat,
how her feet must press insistently on the floor with
each step, how the orchid must have stretched itself
a few millimetres overnight, how the stew must be
whispering on the stove and the table set for dinner.
The lovers are gentler with each other now because
they have memorized each other’s fears like daily
prayer: how too much salt brings back the years of
loneliness, how a warm bath may be more necessary
than a rough kiss after a day’s absence of tenderness.
The lovers are gentler because they have grown too
knowledgeable to love any other way. When one asks
the other to fling her onto the bed, the lover might say:
Do you actually want me to? And the lover might reply:
No, I don’t. Such asking becomes routine, almost like
walking down the aisle of a supermarket at evening,
but it is what they do best as lovers. Beyond desire
and its petty dramas, the two women will have their
tapestry of days and nights, their hands tempered by
love, clasped bodies holding their wounds at bay.
Mary Jean Chan is a poet from Hong Kong. She was short-listed for the 2016 London Magazine Poetry Prize, and won the 2016 Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition for her poem ‘Wet Nurse’ in the ESL category. Her work has been published in Oxford Poetry, Callaloo Journal, Ambit Magazine, The Rialto, QLRS, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal and elsewhere. Mary Jean received the 2015 University of London MA Creative Writing Prize and is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.