Entries open for Honi Soit 2021 Writing Competition

Tessellation

Sometimes I watch them eat raspberries.

Art by Anonymous

I.

They sleep on their stomach and this bed is only big enough

for one, so I wake up

with half my back pressed against theirs, a lazy

tessellation of limbs and oversized t-shirts. When I was twelve I said

I’d stay a virgin forever, never open my legs for some boy

following the demands of his cock. Funny

the promises you make when you don’t know better,

and the ones you keep when you do. I am listening

to fat globs of rain plop on patio tiles

like the slap of skin against skin. A beautiful

ugly closeness, a crude intimacy, picking at each other’s scars.

II.

Sometimes I watch them eat raspberries, picking off

each red drupelet individually, savouring, drawing out. I am learning

patience in these small gestures, drops

of water against stone. At nine

I ripped a sapling out by the roots

to understand my mother, how she grew anger

in place of love. I felt it then, the rush, the force chafing

against my hand, the sudden blank

freefall when it gave. Ten years on

I listen hopefully for their irregular flurry of footsteps

down the staircase, their wordless murmur

at the door – the days tumbling gently from my fingers

like glass beads shattering out of sight.

But I still flinch when the door opens

without warning, because I know

what makes a child hide in the garage, a girl

get in her teachers’ cars, a boy

leave home at eighteen and never look back.

III.

They sleep in my bed now and my father knows, awkwardly

letting himself out of my apartment with a goodbye

ridden with holes

they know they will never fill. But our first night

we lay awake with our sides pressed together, an unbearable heat

growing where we were joined, not friction

but a soldering iron’s searing kiss. I woke up half melted

in a puddle of old fears and new. Now I don’t know

which shape I have taken in my father’s eyes –

man learning patience, boy learning devotion, girl

learning to live on scraps of love. What I know

is six months ago I sat

on the end of their bed as they slept, trying not to grieve

for what had not yet been lost. Now their heartbeat in my ear

still makes me shiver, and I lie closer, lines of skin blurring

like memory and speculation – fear and nostalgia – train platforms

and apartment windows – until we are one

little girl sitting on the precipice, tears streaming

from her eyes, hugging herself tightly and not jumping.

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