CONTENT NOTE

‘Covid’ makes mention of racist language and verbal abuse against Chinese Australians.

Covid

mutters the white man in the whole
-food aisle: cue his scratched-vinyl
voice: cue the leering skull
inked on his arm staring straight out of two blackholes
through your yellow-peril soul
and you’re the devil who’s out spreading
his sick of sin in this cut-paper town tonight.

Go home and die, you dirty chink. An extra dose
of reassurance just in case you haven’t heard
enough. What’s not to love? This
outlaw country that wants you dead each day
but not dead enough to be absolved
of your crime of still breathing
& trying to cling to the incandescent
cadence of your heart.

In the floodlit church
of the supermarket, on this dog-eared
& rain-beaten evening, you stand aflame
like an origin story no one wants
to hear, a chink in the chainmail armour
of a history shining with the fiery
scherzo of poppies & gold-plaqued names
of colonial heroes. You touch the blue

plastic bag of long-grained rice
and think of terraced paddies in Sichuan
gleaming with silver tresses of ripening seeds
that thrash in the sun like your
grandmother’s plaited hair. A lineage braided
& unbraided. You stroke the green corsage
of a bok choy and think of kin, of

blood history, of how the skein of vein throbbed
under Grandma’s wrist like a slight, fearless
tremor of earth. ‘Covid-19 China Die’ was
spray-painted on the garage door of one
Chinese family in Victoria.

What’s not to love here?
One yellow body = an entire land
of brown earth where the wind lingers
in fine strokes of hieroglyphs and the swaying
bamboo stalks talk in pentatonic
scales of flute & zither.

And the rumour they’ve heard is all
true: you breathe through your chink-in-the-wall
your chink-in-the-curtain mouth
and out comes the rice-paper moon
Li Bo wrote about as he lay amongst a bed
of peonies fifteen centuries ago, drunk
on sweet plum wine & the old grief of unassuageable loss.

And you alone tonight are China
gleaming with harvest. You, alone, are Li Bo
drunk on grief. You alone are the Chinese moon
drifting through aisles promising
deliverance & plenitude
lifting the light pouring from above
to your burning lips
and you drink.

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