Grandmama’s hands ache in
The frost will burrow their tiny prickly heads
Into crevices that
Quake-open like awakened eyes
When the cold ring its keening bells.
They will line up their bee stings
To spear at the quivering nerves within,
Prod jealously at the warmth hidden beneath
The armoured, calloused skin.
Persistent they may be,
It never deters grandmama from
Dipping her fingers resolutely into
Frigid water to scrub the
Crisp, tart cabbage leaves,
Coaxing them into graceful ladies
That tread lightly on a lake of
Grandmama shows me the little
Cracks at the tips of her fingers:
They are Grand Canyon miniatures
With the wintry air trickling
Gently, acutely across the tender river beds;
And below, the earth pulse with
Gurgling lava. It’s summer inside
And winter outside.
Grandmama loves to hold my hands,
Tender, fleshy, naked little kitten paws,
That scrape impatiently, anxiously
At the door of Growing Up.
I love to hold grandmama’s hands,
Feel the rough texture of the gentle hemp ropes,
Always there for me to hold on for balance,
Pull up my quilt at night.
Grandmama’s hands ache in
But when winter takes its leave like a
Dark hooded man, and drags away its
Austere blanket of bitter cold,
Grandmama’s hands really come to life.
They radiate the warmth of summer’s sun,
Catch me in their knobbly branches
And lock me in an embrace, a loving banyan tree
Which has watched me stretch and grow.
One day, my dear grandmama,
My hands will be big enough to cradle
Yours in mine, and protect them from the
Winter frost like sepals protect their
Tender flower buds.
The undulating afternoon air carries wisps of conversation to her
As she makes her way to the scene.
10th storey … the classroom window.
She can feel a zephyr dancing about her bare ankles,
Burrowing into the curls of her hair.
Found right here, this wretched child.
The breeze is mischievous today, she thinks,
Tripping too light-heartedly over a misfortune as this.
Poor thing, not been fated to live long.
She silently pushes her way through the murmuring crowd.
Squats beside the pale, drained body.
Will be so hard for her parents, yes. One pretty lassie gone.
She hugs her knees, and then extends a finger
To brush the matted hair from the girl’s face.
Must have been bullied in school, poor thing.
The girl’s face is chalk-white. Lips blotched with prune-purple.
The wind frolics about nonchalantly in her empty pupils.
Probably driven to a corner by mean thugs in school.
The girl is perhaps eleven years old, she thinks.
Too young to be taken like this. Taken by the wind.
Or perhaps it was too much stress from schoolwork, yes…
She leans in further, smells the rusty pang of blood,
Gazes reassuringly into those eyes: a pair of wandering, lost spirits.
Must have been the teacher. Too strict. Too hard on her.
(I wanted to fly like that starling outside the window…)
“I understand,” she whispers.
And once again brushes away softly fluttering strands of hair.
I tell my own children to take it easy－
(Take off into the air…)
Her fingers trace along the contours of her
Cool, stiff face. Strokes her uplifted cheek.
We must tell our own children not to－
(Flying, I was really flying!)
Smoothes her eyelids shut.
Gently kisses her marble forehead.
This is all so awful, I can’t help shuddering.
(Soaring in the breeze! So free, so free!)
The sunlight and shadows play about her face.
The edges of her lips are slightly upturned in awkward delight.
Tomorrow we send our consolations. Let’s do it together.
(Like the starling, so free…!)
She looks like a porcelain doll, she thinks,
Frozen in eternal bliss. A bleeding porcelain doll.
Poor thing. May god bless her soul.
(Fly, fly…with the sky and clouds swimming above…!)
The police are coming to take the body away.
She strokes her cheeks one last time and straightens up.
We found her here, this wretched child.
“Sleep tight, Princess of your Imagination!” she says half-aloud.
Then she pushes out of the crowd, as quietly as she had come.
10th storey…the classroom window.
The crowd closes up behind her, and then she is free,
Skipping, skipping cheerfully, with the wind coming to
Burrow affectionately into her hair.
“Flying…!” she echoes.
Skipping, skipping, flapping her arms.
“Free as a bird…!”
Ekphrasis: Spear My Heart
(Homage to Salvador Dali’s sculpture “The Unicorn” and its lithograph “The Agony of Love”.)
Spear my heart, spear it,
Spear it hard, but
Don’t spill blood.
Dagger-in your searing horn,
Vicious, rough, my unicorn.
Puncture through my pale bare breast,
Hear every muscle, vessel tear,
Rip me quick, rip complete,
Rip me like you rip the bedsheet.
Break my ribs, firecrackers sing,
Make my skin and dark flesh singe.
You’re all black coals, unicorn,
Your equine eyes glow red glow mad.
I’m soft and white, a compliant bride
Hollowed out, a frail lily.
My flesh frays, abused red petals,
I drift high on heroin.
But not a drop of blood should spill,
Love, not a vessel unruptured;
Drink it clean, drink my blood,
Let my scarlet flames scorch your throat,
My inflammatory blood ignite your heart.
Kick your hoofs, dear unicorn,
Slam me fiendish against the wall,
Kill me, and I’ll shout delight.
Then toss away my body frame,
The battered, naked, earthly one,
Keep me pinned against the wall,
Don’t let my soul evaporate.
Trample on my undivine, gold remains,
Sink it deep into the soil,
I’m here I’m here I’m here my sweet lord,
The eternal one, clinging to your horn.
My blood has mingled in with yours,
Viscous and thick, my unicorn.
It burns your intestines right through,
A hole, look, with flesh curling, slew.
Whinny not in pain, but in ecstasy,
Stamper not in agony.
Screech with passion’s untamed throes,
Scream wild, loud, like a tortured rose.
The ashes of yours and ashes of mine
Will be stirred together by the wind’s hand,
Our souls are one huge fireball,
Blazing, intense, angry love.
Blazing, intense, angry love.
Helen Zhou Huiwen is a literature student of Raffles Junior College. Her poems have appeared in Singapore's Moving Words anthology, as well as Young Poets Network. She loves art museums and watching art performances.