Tender Disturbance by Belle Ling

I was born
            into gaps. Water
                        multiplies in leaks—
   within me hollowed
                        out—Up, up! There, there!
     Small fingers, large
                    fingers of water
                              draw circles of me
            escaping: our roof!
         Here, here—
                           Down, down!
                                               Can I hold you?
Opalescent semi-circles,
                       feathery water. Falling
            watermelon slices,
                       hundreds of little reds
                 for fruitier-sweeter apparel.
                                               Ennui, ennui, water squints.
                                               Always, says Mum,
           your expressions fail. Mum
                                                              fills me a glass of water,
                                               she doesn’t understand—
             Stunt-seconds in rains,
                                                         that’s our time in water?
                        See how much time we’ll
                                                              be given. Or forgiven?
For tonight our roof’s broken?
                                               For water, nowhere’s redeemable?
                       Meaningless, meaningless,
the fan, one metre above us, excited.
                                               The rain pauses.
                                                                             Cicadas cascade.
                       I fling my eyes to hook
                                                              a slice of moon back
             to an equipoise, and listen—
                                               the fan pendulums.              


Belle Ling was born and raised in Hong Kong. She received her PhD in Creative Writing at The University of Queensland, Australia. Her first poetry collection A Seed and a Plant was shortlisted for The HKU International Poetry Prize 2010. Her more recent poetry manuscript Rabbit-Light was highly commended in the 2018 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Her other manuscript Grass Flower Head was shortlisted for the First Book Poetry Prize 2018 of Puncher and Wattmann. In 2016, her poem “That Space” won a second place in the ESL category of the International Poetry Competition organized by the Oxford Brookes University. Her poem “63 Temple Street, Mong Kok” was a co-winner in the Peter Porter Poetry Prize 2018 held by the Australian Book Review. The other poem of hers “One Intimate Morning” was shortlisted for the International Poetry Prize 2019 of the Atlanta Review. Her poems also appeared in World Literature Today, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Yuan Yang, Meanjin, Overland, Mascara Literary Review, Taj Mahal Review, The Istanbul ReviewFoothill: A Journal of PoetryNew Reader Magazine, and more. She is now teaching at the HKU Guild, based in the School of English at The University of Hong Kong.