Lesson of Admiration

Clara peels the potatoes.
She had her hair cut very short
so when she worked the land
the teary locks did not blight the grass.
‘Bad luck for the crops’ concluded father
one afternoon as he watched the news bulletin.

He switched the television off and
put the lights on.
He measured the length of each eyelash
and declared that ‘yes, indeed, they did stop us
understand the real life’.

Nobody could disagree with a scientific discovery.
Father took the scissors out of the cupboard
and laughed at me
as he dropped Clara’s plaits on the living room carpet.
My black plaits never grew after that.
The hair developed inside my lungs.
At night, I spat the growing particles out
and hid them under the floor boards.

Father believed the news as, he said, ‘we all
had to believe in something certain,
which can be seen with the naked eye,
in real things’, like the soiled potatoes
spread on the dinner table.

On Thursdays, we peel potatoes,
kneeling in silence by the water pipes.
Father sits on a stool to watch
my weekly exercise of admiration.
He checks the peels stained with droplets of blood
and laughs again.

My bald head tilted above the sink looks at Clara.
My hair comes
out of my mouth,
out of my chopped fingers,
floats in the air,
to cover her skull.

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Photograph: John Stadnicki

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Family Photograph

‘No-no!’ I shouted ‘the fish tank will stay in my room!’
The golden dead creature, floating on the green water,
had my mother’s face
before she went away.
I liked to keep everything neatly
in the same place where she left them,
undisturbed by the melting sun.

The dust shined
on the glass lid,
on the doll’s eye,
on my forehead
each night
when asleep in the hallway.

I sat down on the cracked lino,
covered my arms with leafs
and kept watching Clara tidying-tidying the house.
Her yellow fingers piled everything in a black bag.
She left the fish alone, with a sigh.

Looking at her moves up and down the stairs
I thought she looked a bit like
the one-winged butterfly
unable to jump out
through the shut window.

I wondered what butterfly meat tasted like,
if sliced with a silver blade;
what mother tasted like
in the moment I was released
honey coated pearl.
I put my elbow close to my lips
and smelled to see
if she was somehow hiding in there.

Clara tripped over my spread legs
but kept singing.
She did not look ahead.
I looked ahead
at each room
with a serious face.
My empty baby skin rested
on top of the rubbish bin.

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Installation: Rita Fenning

Citizen Kim Lee

There is a camera above my head looking at this
Collection of bones, noses, eyes, ears,
Bits of hair, silver bracelets and teeth.
False teeth.

All on the table in front of me.
The camera is showing the result of the war.
Two – nil, china.
Bone china.

A hidden camera briefly turned on
Slowly recording each tear
Reporting back to you, master.

The masses add to my selection of
Human remains, photographs, children.
Born and unborn.

I am struggling so hard to keep crying
But I need another drink
And the shops are closed.

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