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Hot Desk Extract: Turbulence

Read Monday, 29 Oct 2018

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Thuy On worked on a suite of loosely arranged and themed poems, Turbulenceexploring topics such as loss, separation and renewal, (online) dating, sex, longing, rejection and desire.

This excerpt includes several poems from the suite.

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Abstract image of restless shapes


Let others wax mauve
about dandelions and baby’s breath
bracing cool breezes
that brush off stagnancy and regret:
these winsome odes to blades of grass
dewy mists and sheaves of corn

Let others decry the cut and thrust
of a world riven by wants and needs
split by colour codes
fly-flecked in drying blood
Faustian-pact for coin and power 

My words care not
for such beauty and affronts;
they’d rather burrow deep
in this interior landscape
excavate the findings:
gem or stone
and surface to the air
to breathe and contemplate.

Let others decry the cut and thrust /
of a world riven by wants and needs



the ecstasy of plates crashing down
hard-edged snowflakes
this pure assault
a subcutaneous hit
viscosity that pooled
in ever widening arcs.

half-skittered deer
uncamouflaged and bullseyed 

a wordless tongue
a misted red.



We were the sun
dipping low
long past its zenith 

We were pocked marked
scratching at calluses
leached of vim 

I was depleted
pestled into a coarse powder

Away from you
the ground is loosely packed
air pockets I can still breathe through

Away from you
oozing blood cells
flood my marrow

The time is now
and the process has begun.



In this taxonomy
of laddered pain
eyes need to be drawn
to the jam jar that holds a tulip
a firebird bathing in ashes
splinters of glass
crystallised into prisms

Grant me a tabula rasa
no echoes no hums
a soundtrack of white noise
breaths in and out
in and out
a hushing of the mind 

Please: a gilt-edged clarity
to look ahead
and mosaic the rearview mirror.


Glossy Beads

A necklace of bright
red bloody beads
is trailing behind me
hitting the pavement
a deep blossoming ruby

Shield your eyes /
my darling girl /
I don’t know /
what will become of us

This heart-gape
trickle a leak
I look down in surprise
O mouthed that there
could be so much
seepage still
I thought plasma cells
and these eye salts
had been exhausted 

Stemmed clenched
I walk apace
shut tight not to spill any more
but looking back
beyond my shoulder
these stains they follow
in time to every step
a rhythmic beat
an oil-slick puddle.


Abstract image


For Ava

Your mother
is an in-betweener
a transitional mode
from what is to what will be
over the shoulder glance:
spoiled, a throat-scorching landscape
for the love of you
she tried to make the triangle prevail
until enough
she could prop no more
a collapse of this formation of sticks
stones that did hurt
a soul in unfashionable black.

Shield your eyes
my darling girl
I don’t know
what will become of us
a looking forward of dazzle
for our tiny binary unit
is all I can write for
those who spark
then fade will make
their presence felt
but you
you are the lodestar
to light me out
a reminder
of a life to be kissed.



It’s the weekend
a nuclear unit spills out
baked bread and all that is wholesome
froth on pink button nose
woollens tight on acorn head
those tiny pitter-pats on backs
father mother child
commune in code

This holy trinity
I remember
before the ousting 

Interloping in my table of one
to the song of family
my coffee spoon clatters
grains of sugar
over yesterday’s news 

The child
startles eyes like saucers
breaks out
the ambit of protection
and comes to me
licks a finger
sweetens the tip
with fallen crystals 

My chair kicked back
a sudden violence
I cross the street
there’s a bite to the air.


Caveat emptor

Whoever reaches out and stickers
a small red dot
an intent to claim
a plea please
be gentle
so much invisible stitching
around these scarlet lips
these eyes dulled with fortitude
in load bearing crumple. 

My chair kicked back /
a sudden violence /
I cross the street /
there’s a bite to the air.

There needs
a kindness to buff
such coarsened patches
to righten 
what’s ill-aligned
a ministering of twinset
patience and plastering.
And in return
for this investment?
A blue-flamed passion
for the one who can
tender these sparks.


Rom-coms ruin it for everyone

In shopping aisles bananas are innuendo
In pavement stumbles
Mr floppy fringe comes a-dashing
while Little Miss Good Times
behind tweed and owlish specs
Let’s wait for:
boy meets girl
histrionic swells
riverbed of tears
tinnitus of sighs
lines criss-crossed
doubled up
backed away
(An age later)
venn-diagrammed overlap
like and like meet halfway
a head knock
a heart pound
a body roll
After: a bench sit
a skyline view
a shopping trolley where
peaches are innuendo.


Online Dating for Dummies 

Bumbling along
Cupid is usually not okay
And how often does Tinder burn you? 

Be the chased not the chaser
flatten down those
quivering endings
these exposed nerves
heightened to feel
such elation
at a wisp of connecting
thoughts and the charge
of communing skin electrics

These matches
flicks of convenience
and disposability
a game of ego-stroked numbers
Write your own rules:
1. caution over heartspill
2. truth will triple scores cheats
3. roll and roll the dice again.

The algorithms don’t compute
you are not a fraction
looking to be a whole
but a prime number
factor of one and itself. 

These matches /
flicks of convenience /
and disposability /
a game of ego-stroked numbers



What hope
to behold
such beauty in the broken
the lacquer that fills the edges
a delicate silver repair
such precious scars
these shards restored
a joinery visible
glued with hands mindful
of what it took
to be held to the light
for hairline cracks
a caressing wipe
over the filmy layers
to the fractured whole.



Can you frame yourself in third-person
outside of this life not your choosing?
the soundtrack of tiny violins and cymbals
but at a remove
theatrics muted
outlines fuzzy
just a slice of the whole drama
on reveal
like a fingernail clipping of the moon. 


Whirling dervish

To colour inside the lines
I have to
coffee poetry sex and cupcakes
To recall the muscle memory
of non calamity
I have to

a whirling dervish
to spin the wheel
try to land pointer thrust
diametrically opposite
to where it was stuck. 

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