JASMINE ANN COORAY
Jasmine Ann Cooray is a poet from London, of British and Sri Lankan heritage.
She was the Writer In Residence at the National University of Singapore in 2013.
She is known for her vivid images, inclusive performance style, and storytelling
through personal experience. She is often moved to address the taboo issues
through her writing, and has occupied a variety of performance spaces from
spontaneous guerrilla poetry to the Tate Modern, London. She is also a mentor
and workshop facilitator for young people, and aims to create spaces for
emerging writers to speak out. Her debut pamphlet, which was released in 2009,
will be reprinted by Math Paper press. She is compiling her first full collection.
They said it was against regulation
for family to dress the body.
I imagined him on a conveyor belt
in that funeral-care depot, the edge
of town: washed, buttoned, zipped
by strangers under halogen glare,
and thought why is it against regulation
for a daughter to dress her father?
to clothe the corporeal debris
of a spirit she only skimmed the surface of;
a last snatch at some tender ritual
before he became speeches and dust.
It would have been both of us dressing up:
him, for everyone else's goodbye;
me as someone
who was around more.
I thought I might find a whispered language
in the straightening of shirtsleeves,
imagined a script for our silence emerging
as invisible ink on his skin,
our blank storyboards sketched in
by touch: I am here, I am here now.
Time did not rewind for the captions,
scrawled over with sorry, I love you;
dubbed to drown out the crunch
of a tape at the end of its last play.
I hope the ones who razored his peaceful cheeks
were respectful in a way that I never was;
that their hands were deft and gentle,
that they gave him the second glance
I meant to throw,
before it was too late.
I take bites from his body
as a child scrapes a gingerbread man
of sugar, reduces it to a featureless slab.
He pulls my teeth away from his belly,
both hands at my shoulders, implores
tell me you want me.
Alpha is his crisp state at room temperature:
this is a teacup edge I did not foresee.
I feel him start to sag, tremulous: the pause
steams his edges to crumble. He is worried
I will swallow his name without chewing,
an unceremonious scoffer with no palate
for delectation: chasing, instead,
that unremarkable end:
a feeling of fullness.
She confessed she saw a light
above your chair:
just a light, hovering.
Quick to sweep herself up
with probably just seeing things,
she dismisses anything
that might label her mind
in any way blunt or rusty,
but a few moments on,
her soft eyes, her whisper
betrayed the wonder:
I felt like all the weight lifted.
It had to be you. Holding up
was what you did in our house,
the world resting on your beams
so we could play safely
underneath, like children
in tablecloth dens.
Mum's shoulders have bowed a little,
her body: a chair with too heavy
a sitter, but she, like you,
cannot voice how tiring this is;
let go of our ceiling long enough
even to bid you hello.
yields all possibility.
I didn't know what a Jesuit was
when we visited the old church; still don't,
but opted to open my eyes wide,
nod at the details spotlit by the guide's index digit.
A flower bed, unplanted,
seduces green-fingered missionaries.
I professed nothing.
Under the sizzle of silence,
I wonder if she wrote off my ignorance
I did not tell her my parents sacked God,
that the alphabet of these stories
does not fit in my mouth.
Instead, I rolled hollow comment around it,
extracting saliva like orange oil
spurting from squeezed peel.
She seemed quenched by this drizzle,
a dry bed rescued from drought.
I knew she wanted to believe,
look for her face in the dewdrops;
the tiniest flash of green.
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