by WES LEE
You always thought crazy
was a defection of the will,
you’d been in that place holding on
for months, and you managed
(to stay on this side),
so you made up your mind
that people choose crazy,
but that was just one time
in your life
you thought was the worst,
the worst comes like waves
and you are
the brimming bucket
the stone floor
the castle with its interior
arches, and the wizard.
And your sore arms
(by your sides)
you are rubbed with wintergreen
Published in Poethead, February 2020. First published in Westerly 60:1, University of Western Australia.
One Summer: Orcas in the Bay
by WES LEE
We began excitedly moving out of the sea —
not in a furious tumble the way
we would at the sight of a shark.
Lines of cars stopped on the road,
people climbing out to raise their hands
above their eyes.
A swirling fracas as they thrashed under the waves.
The huge male surfacing in front of us barely
ten feet away.
‘Probably hunting something. Most likely stingrays,’
And after, it felt as if we’d been pumped with helium.
As if earth’s gravity had loosened its grip
and all the parts of us were trying to lift off.
Telling the story again.
Wanting to hear it from each other’s lips;
provoking each other to embellish it.
Polishing each aspect.
Then we set it down.
Awarded 2nd prize in the Takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize judged by Elizabeth Smither. Published in The Beach Hut, January 2020.
The Girl in the Basement / The Boy in the Basement
By WES LEE
And I wanted to be the girl / in True Detective / Catatonic /
Cared for / in the perfect institution / the place where
horror is mediated / The girl /
rescued / and loved forever / The girl swept up in the arms
of the detectives / who have never witnessed such horror /
I wanted to be taken up by the protectors /
passed from hand to hand / to be that girl forever / And I
wanted someone to listen / I wanted
to be turned around like a / precious / piece of glass ... of something /
I wanted to be handled / with care /
And I suppose I wanted people to look at me / the way they do
on TV / with a rare quality / as if I was rare / and what I’d been
through was so rare as to render me / priceless /
The wan girl / in the oversize cardigan /
the rescued girl / The girl who is found years after / The girl
who escapes / and comes home and her family / have kept
her bedroom untouched / and they treat her /
as if each day is Christmas /
And I wanted to be the boy who lies / who returns home disguised
as the boy who vanished / and even when they find out / they
still keep calling him by the name / The name of the boy
Selected as a finalist in The Geometry/Open Book National Poetry Competition 2018 by Anna Livesey and Sophie van Waardenberg, and first published in Turbine /Kapohau 2018 (The Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University, Wellington).
By WES LEE
They don’t do it anymore,
breathe into the mouth to save.
We had learnt it reluctantly,
lined up beside a recumbent dummy,
waiting to take our turn to kneel at that mouth.
The simplest things disturb –
at night when the fluoros shut off and the cover is pulled,
the tiles swabbed – there it lies open,
not even a ventriloquist’s dummy
is so exposed.
2nd place winner in The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2015 – judged by Tristram Fane-Saunders and Holly Howitt-Dring.