A Whole History

Volume 29: Autumn 2014


In the morning they were both found dead.

    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.

—Eavan Boland, ‘Quarantine’, Section IV of ‘Marriage’




The floor is cold with the coming winter.

     I pull on white socks

and sit down before the blackout window

to think about our separation closing in.


We have a history longer than the two years

     that fitted like a shirt.

You learned a long time ago to enjoy ironing.

I always had someone ironing shirts for me.


But we go further back than birth, to furtive

     park encounters,

coded glances, tapping on bathroom walls,

ways of staying warm and white in winter.


Yesterday a young friend said it’s wrong

     to expose children

to a gay wedding. The chill hit me again.

Rage spread like blood over my clean shirt.


I cannot wash it off. You are no longer willing.

     In the closet the shirt,

part reminder of love, part reminder of rage,

is held up by its shoulders on thin twisted wire.


from Steep Tea (Carcanet 2015)


To read more from Jee Leong Koh and the rest of Issue 29, visit our eShop to take out a subscription or buy a print or digital copy.


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