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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023
The Bird, poems by Cassandra Loh
The Scent of You
I am once again reminded
Like any animal I am all flesh and instinct –
Primal and feral in the face of the unknown,
Hackles raised, tail down, ears tight to my skull in terror.
But your scent wafts warm-soft through the darkness,
Fills heaving lungs deep and molasses slow,
Warmth curling, heady and soothing.
Tension leaves in waves, I sag
Bone weary into soft furs, a nest, a home.
Even when gone, I breath you over and
over and over again.
I dream of you everywhere.
In the rustling of the leaves,
And the creak of thick branches
Scraping against the fence,
She watches me.
She watches me with her head cocked;
Wide unblinking eyes staring
As I stay crouched amongst the grass,
Her feathers fluffing in the stiff breeze.
The bar of the fence is her watchful perch,
Ever tracking my motions,
My hands, as I tend to blossoming lavenders —
A myriad of purple, speckled with buzzing bees.
I know her,
Recognise her as my shadow when weeding.
Clump by clump, the unruly made quiet
In mounds of freshly turned dirt.
Wherever I go she follows,
Curiously pecking at the same dirt:
Cocked head primed for carapace feet
As they stream in droves from their upturned homes.
She’s to my side in the silence
And the shifting breeze,
While the clouds drift overhead
Coveting the sun’s rays in turns.
Sometimes I see her through the window —
Her mission never finished,
Pecking at grass green and yellowed,
Long and shorn, grown patchy with dandelions.
Last week I joked about it to my father,
About how without fail she’d join me
Amongst the flowerbeds; thick with plants
Desperately trying their best to live.
Amused, he pointed out the window
To the overgrown bush aspiring to be a tree.
“Do you see them?” He asked, “Their nest?”
For the first time I heard them — energetic, demanding.
I saw her on the lawn again after.
It was hard to tell from a distance,
But hanging from her beak,
Something tiny and many-legged was wriggling.
I watch her now, watching me,
Wondering vaguely how the bees in my periphery
Can still steer in the strength of the wind.
I cock my head, to mimic hers.
As I stand, sweeping dirt
And fresh weeds off of my knees,
She hops from the fence
And takes flight.
© Cassandra Loh
Cassandra Loh is a poet and graphic designer based in Auckland, New Zealand. In recent years, her interest in poetry has grown to encompass not just poetic writing, but a poem’s presentation. In 2018, her poem, ‘Day Bi Day’, which depicted a journey of self-discovery was showcased as a stop-motion animated video poem at Toronto’s Bi Arts Festival and was shortlisted as a finalist in its category in The Designers Institute of New Zealand’s Best Design Awards. She has since earned a Master of Design focusing on digital poetry, specifically exploring the intersection of visual communication, animation, interaction, and written poetry in her work, ‘Strange Oceans’. https://cay-ll.itch.io/strange-oceans