Rhiannon Ng Cheng Hin,
"Lessons in Southern Water Cycles"

Pereybère, 1988

Does it come back alive, our slow wilt
daily routine slung over garden fences?
We could go all night—seethe elderberry
on gas, soft thrum fingers pounding black
roots. At dawn it glistens on the hour’s neck
and at last we salvage grief, this latent rain.

Stand here on the edge of tomorrow
interrogating trees. This must be alive
cradled by ocean crags, hemolustrous palms
whirl overtongue—say ansam. Pli. Say we
are a caged chorus of island fires learning
to love the cold, unlearning middle names.

We spend August peeling water molecules
and overripe fruit, teeth laid over damp soil
to resist terminal velocity, taste our sister islands
break loose from seabed. Barely alive, they flicker
between raindrops—those lime‐lit lime‐coral
lime‐eyed women asleep in the room upstairs.

In a biotic bedtime story does it
come back alive, virga simmering in
the middle of our lives? They say the rain
is wider where the women are wearier
so we assume it must be alive, all of it
in its perpetual fluidity.

Come back alive, night wren crashing
through Northern Ontario. In her wake,
maps creak open in weedlight, wind belts
undulate over coastal flume. Curl into warm
tile, exhale through your soles, lay here in
the shadow of this garden fence and swell
swell, recede. We have seen this before, hurtling
into mind’s eye: a rain‐washed rhythm frayed
by oil and sun, rolling with hightide. Our brief
lives furled into seawave, tapering on light—
how swiftly it cools. How lonesome its roil.

How effortless its return.


From The Malahat Review's spring issue #214