We sit on washed up ocean logs. Grilled corn cobs in our hands, the sweet warmth on our teeth and the hot sun speckling our bare shoulders under the canopy of banana trees. When was the last time I had eaten corn without butter or salt. It tastes sweeter here. Grilled over red wood coals in a long thin iron trough. They understand it differently. We sit and the wind blows in over the ocean water almost still this side of the reef.
We toss our feathered cobs in a metal can and walk along the beach. The wind in my ears. Kites hang in the sky above our heads, whistles attached to their backs hum, reminding me of a swarm of bees from home. Reminding me of the man I’d watch on sundays. The white suit and grey baseball cap. Smoking the buzzing bees into a soft hum, and the sloping fields behind him leading to the river and the song of water rippling over rocks.
*Beach in Bali, Indonesia
In my dream we castrated sheep all afternoon,
the hot early summer sun turning shoulders burnt,
and our fingers sticky from blood and sweat.
Today my mind drifted between dreams and memories,
and I thought of Murakami’s sheep chase and of obsession,
and I saw my head become wooly and and my irises turn slitted side to side.
Tonight I will count sheep in the stucco pattern on my ceiling,
and turning I will see one standing in the woods,
the horizon tilted with my lopsided gaze and I will see
that his white wool has turned knotted and dirty in the receding light of dusk.
I spent so much time on trains while growing up that the absence of their shaking bodies these past eight years has left me trembling on my own, alone in my room, the moon peeking through the shuttered blinds hanging over my open windows.
Lately I dream of earthquakes and of big dark storms travelling over the green ocean. The water shaking under the pummeling fists of rain and the booming voice of thunder whose tongue of lighting dips into the waves tasting salt.
Pittsboro NC, Age 20
The windows were tall and thin dividing the stark whiteness of winter outside into three sections, each containing strips of snowy grass, frozen pond, dark trees cradling snow and dripping icicles, and then the grey sky above. He stood at the windows, his gaze hollow and his eyes cold as he tracked the dark shapes of geese across the sky. Three in window one. Four in window two and four more in window one. Five in window three, four in window two, and one goose in window one, its beak, lodged in the wood paneling and then all of them gone, past the expanse of the cabin’s windows. 1, 2, 3, 4—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6—1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Could it be dark like the the tips of wings and then quiet, under the ice quiet. Trapped quite. Could he turn from there and drive out onto the black and yellow of tarmac road. Stop. Turn. Stop. The kettle’s on. And the hot steam rose up like so much smoke from the white stove. And he thought of the boy sleeping above him in the loft. His body –– like a line of hot coals burning in an iron stove.
Quinton Soemardi is a mixed raced queer poet currently living in Asheville NC. He is a graduate of the Warren Wilson College Creative Writing Department and his work has appeared in The Peal and The Swannanoa Journal.