Another summer. Insects thrum,
and the leaves are heavy with salt.

Nothing has changed. Everything
is different. The seawater in the pool

has come and gone a thousand times
since we last swum here together.

The grass, the rocks, the seafloor:
they remain. The crabs in the crevices,

the clinging limpets. You will not remember
this. You are beyond all remembering.

I submerge myself into the ocean.
My body knows you were once here.

The tide comes in and breaks on the chains.
We are foam on the waves: we dissipate into air.

Love Poem for Rain

This morning, the rain 
arrived as a whisper. 

I did not rise to shut 
the windows. 

The cat fled to the dark 
silence of the bathroom. 

Yesterday, I’d asked you 
to water the garden. 

The rain will come, you’d said. 
I hadn’t believed it would. 

Now I lie in the half-light, 
unmoving, listening: 

it’s true, it’s true. 
Don’t cry; I love you. 


I close my eyes and I’m four again—
we’re at the crossing, waiting for the light.
Your hand around mine. You carried
a bag of eggs: ten, I’d counted. You showed
me how to crack the shells; taught me how
to beat the eggs and mix them with stock.
I watched you pour the pale liquid into a dish
and lower it into the lidded wok. I love steamed
egg custard: its soft simplicity, its gentle savour.

I lay with you that final time in your big bed.
I don’t remember what we were watching on TV.
I recall the curtains, and how I’d asked you
to sew me dresses from that same fabric.
You laughed, and offered me your red lace dress.
I didn’t take it. I wish I had now.
They didn’t dress you in it, but placed it in your coffin.
It burned, like everything else, into ash.
I wish I’d been there. I would have worn it.

I deleted your number from my phone.
I’ll never forget it, or you. Some days
I hear your voice, talking about everything
and nothing. I miss your curses, your loud,
unladylike laugh. I even miss your driving.
I only drove you once. You didn’t criticise
my parking. Remember the restaurant in the old theatre?
They’d served us buns in the shape of peaches, for longevity.
I close my eyes, still taste them: salt life, sweet tears.

The Grove

Nearly winter. The farmer and his wife go out
amongst the trees to harvest the olives. They stack
branches for burning, bag black fruit into sacks, then
pile them high by the stony walls. Tomorrow, their sons
will take the harvest to sell at the market in the old city.

It is night, and the farmer watches over his fields.
There are wild boars about. They are hungry. The farmer
has no working rifle, and the beasts are unafraid of stones.
His dogs bark at the darkness. The cats watch and do nothing.
His wife calls out to him, and slowly, he returns to the hut.

The farmer and his wife lie side-by-side in their bed.
They each think of the other’s death. They do not speak of it.
In the morning, they work flour, salt and water into dough, shape it
into loaves, and light the fire for the oven. They pull warm bread
apart, dip it in oil, and eat it under the trees with their neighbours.

One spring morning, the farmer gathers his basket of tools
and leaves the hut for the fields. He does not return at noon;
his lunch remains uneaten. They find him after sunset: lying
in the newly ploughed earth, eyes open, one hand on his heart,
the other, full of seeds. His wife palms his cheek, his neck, his silent chest.

Eileen Chong was born in Singapore of Hakka, Hokkien and Peranakan descent. She is the author of nine books, the most recent being A Thousand Crimson Blooms (2021, UQP). She lives and works on unceded Gadigal land.