THE LEAF EATERS:
We learn to control our heartbeats from young. Slow them down until we are almost more plant than mammal, build our homes in the sky, make common cause with birds nests and bee hives, eyes shut faces blurring into leaf, more hammock than hive, more swamp than fruit, still enough to sprout chlorophyll, to shelter winged insects.
Do not call us lethargic: we are world experts of conserving power, perfected the art of prioritizing calories over millennia: when you name sins after us, don’t forget how our ancestors were ruling continents even before the Bible was conceived, how they could make elephants run for cover but chose veganism, moved boulders, uprooted trees, how they gave up their reign for lives of silence, traded the promise of opposable thumbs for toes, turned fingers to hooks, made peace agreements with forests shrank themselves into anonymity, smiled serenely from the canopy as they watched the world tear itself to shreds.
Do not forget how our footprints have been mistaken for craters. The next time you smirk at how we drag ourselves across the land, as we stop traffic, long limbs gliding across tarmac as if it was water, do not forget how we were the first to understand that the secret to being alive is staying still, do not forget how we have been here long before you, how we will remain here long after you’ve left, before you laugh at the green in our hair, do not forget that we once were giants.
The Boys We Loved (after Cyril Wong)
The boys we loved are still on Facebook, years after we have unfollowed them, years after the last drunk 4am fumble of palms conversation. They have moved to new cities, old home towns, new occupations. The boys are following us
on Instagram with their new partners, smiling fiancees, captions cheesier and more tender than we would ever allow ourselves. The boys we loved but not like that, the boys we loved in the sense of craving fried chicken that year we were vegetarian: we wanted to snap their bones, bite, tear into something terrible
and be ok with hating ourselves the next morning. The boys we loved in a time when they swore social media was cancer and saved their most sarcastic blogposts. The boys we loved now tend to work in startups, and use hashtags without irony. The boys we loved had perpetual girlfriends: always a swipe of mascara/five kilograms, four centimetres/ an unstained sweater/ haircut apart from us, whom we never realised were always prettier and funnier than the boys we loved, whom we were grateful for
when they sent the boys we loved crawling back to us begging for our expertise: we savoured the organs of the boys we loved when they opened them up for us after the right amount of drinks/pills/confusing arguments. We licked their wounds, pretended what we tasted didn’t revolt us, and felt a sense of privilege.
The boys we loved we learnt to relegate to the bottom of our newsfeeds, their likes on our pictures still making us smile in secret. The boys we loved are bobbing back up as lists, warnings, matters of fact whispered by old friends--the taste of bile, of vomit at the backs of our throats--that never quite surprise us.
The boys we loved make us wonder if we have always been like this. The boys we loved are deciding how they feel about cancel culture. The boys we loved say they are starting afresh. We remember when we loved to watch them get away with so many funny things.
The boys we loved do not know that this was why we never let them love us back. The boys we loved we now call the boys we loved because muses are for men. The boys we loved will not notice for awhile when we finally decide to block them.
WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO START SOMETHING NEW
BUT THINGS KEEP HAPPENING ON THE EDGES OF YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN
Drown out its footsteps with autoplay.
Blame the chill in the room on the newsfeed
as it slithers up your chair, breath against neck.
Tell yourself the shadows are from the clouds
outside as you sit in a room with no windows.
aren’t there people dying in the world somewhere?
The next thing you write
could be the last thing you ever write, so--
what if it’s ugly?
So what if it’s ugly?
So write ugly.
as it runs a claw down your jawbone,
that every face is a mask
with the right number of incisions,
that underneath all this
you are just like everybody else.
Stephanie Dogfoot is a writer, stand up comedian and the author of Roadkill for Beginners, a poetry collection published by Math Paper Press. A Singapore and UK slam champion, she curates a monthly poetry night in Singapore called Spoke & Bird. Her work as been featured at the George Town Literary Festival, the Singapore Writer's Festival and the Melbourne Spoken Word Festival among many others. She has toured Southeast Asia, Australia, Germany and North America with her poetry. She can be found on twitter and instagram at @stephdogfoot.