Jenny Wong is a writer, traveller and occasional business analyst. Her favourite places to wander are Tokyo alleys, Singapore hawker centres and Parisian cemeteries. Jenny's work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions, as well as longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50. She lives in Canada near the Rocky Mountains.
When I Let the Dog Out
in the Middle of the Night
Usually, he will come in, obedient after fulfilling his duties. But tonight, he ignores the open door, lingers at the edge of the deck where porch light slips beneath darkness like a shore into black sea. He looks at me, aging clouds in his eyes. Asks if I will join him. Asks to go further out into the night.
I leave the house, take three steps, before hesitation begins to make its inevitable lists. The impending weight of an oncoming workday. The alarm clock that must endure two more hours before unleashing its insistent sounds. The vulnerability of bare feet in the dark. So I recall our bodies back inside, leave our longings outdoors to weather down into undistinguishable forms.
We return to bed,
but refuse our typical patterns, our usual positions for sleep. Instead. His head on my hand. My head against his side. We speak to each other through the small collapses of our ribs, release ourselves from the definitions of our daily shapes. Goodest boy. Quiet girl. Two beasts who understand that even the gentlest of breaths was never meant to be held for so long.
The cartographers say my nose is a landmark. A low bridge that is crossed in order to arrive at their first conclusions. From there, they sketch in my origins, guess the vowels that will untwist from my self-bound lips, predict the names of my indoor plants.
They will not see the white in my hair is a tired moon threaded through night, or the salt-tinged oasis that wells across the parched dunes of my face in the dark.
To speak up is a bend in the knee, an acquiescence to their crooked parallels and unwanted latitudes. So I do not give them words, feed them only silence, and they make small notes in the margins re: poor articulation.
In a quiet corner, they assign a broken compass that must always point overseas.
I am landscape locked in observation. A map of drawn conclusions and labels. But what is unable to be captured is the movement of their lips along my paper edges, and this weary shadow that grows whenever I am mouthed.
What Really Happens
When I Sit Alone
I plant a graveyard of feathers on my tongue. Watch them sprout into birds without wings. I could pluck up these flightless fowl, snuff out the flame of their beaks, find that charred wick of tongue beneath. A thread of unspoken words, waiting to be pulled.
But it’s a pointless show.
Those birds see there is no blue in the cave of my mouth, no hope for the freedom of sky. So they bury themselves beneath the roots of my teeth. Even there, I could dig them up, salvage their forms into aspirated syllables that pass for agreeable sound. But the birds have already begun their second evolution. Shedding feathers. Coughing up bones. Revealing slippery skin. In small, salty batches, they slide past scars where my wisdom teeth used to be, and add their bodies to the tangle of old things I hold in my throat.