Like curved eggs, they stoop
& I have seen this before
at the end of a film, the immigrant
family varnishes the door
of their American Dream.
The Deck Staining DIY Kit™ includes
paint & brush & plastic tray but
they begin by kneeling
& saying amen
with the split ends of ngaa coi
when I caught lice in Arthur’s Pass
my mother scrubbed my hair on
hands & knees, crushed
each swollen body until I dreamt
of shelling peanuts.
Now, she is waterblasting
the deck’s splintered face.
Cleaning is a matter of violent
Since coming back,
I have never had softer hands.
I watch my parents drown
their driftwood in terracotta
I leave my bed unturned.
Wen-Juenn is a poet and editor who lives on unceded Wurundjeri land. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in Meanjin, Cordite, Antithesis, Landfall, Southerly, Scum Mag, and Going Down Swinging.
This poem was a runner-up in the 2021 Meanjin University of Melbourne Student Poetry Competition.