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January Embers I

Image: Heart, posted at Flickr by Jo Christian Oterhals under a Creative Commons License.

We often cook the blood of other creatures, pronounce it a delicacy. What would we say about eating each others’? In Nicholas Wong’s “Museum of Anagapesis”, we come to a richer, more oxygenated understanding of the heart’s strength (and weakness), by considering it in animal terms.

The poem tells us,

“The Chinese eat animal viscera, shapes

supplementing shapes. Grilled duck hearts
on skewers, each a pendant, edible
confinement.”

From this, I untangle strings of cartilage, pillows of fatty tissue, to peer into the roasted heart’s recesses. From this, I can almost hear the satisfying tactile crunch of beast-heart between human-teeth. Look at it from several angles, and the action in Wong’s poem is one of devouring. What happens when we’ve consumed the richness, the culinary toxicity, of any heart? We create a void, an absence. Any good museum thrives on absence, on the curation not merely of the object that exists before a selfie-snapping tourist, but of all the countless other objects that once kept it company. You couldn’t think of one terracotta warrior without imagining the legion.

“Leave the heart to the past and the past / to a museum”, says the poem. In these corridors and cloisters of emotional transcription, all the savaged hearts can roam free, hearkening to each other in “systole”, the contraction of the vessel. These wounded organs, weighing 350g each, must take up residence somewhere: where better than a museum?

The earliest directive of the poem asks us to consider living without a heart, prompts us to further theorize that without it, the body might slough onwards, other vital organs picking up the slack. These are contemplations as ruthless as they are vulnerable, as feral as they are domesticated, each corresponding to either a frying pan, licked with oil, or a windowless display, archived forever.

Read “Museum of Anagapesis” here.
Nicholas Wong’s first collection of poems, Crevasse, was published by Kaya Press in 2015.

This is the eighteenth installment of Here for the Unicorn Blood, a Queer POC Poetry Reader which runs from June 1 – June 30. Historically, June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, heralded as the birth of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. #PrideMonth’s global significance, its unabashed celebration of queerness, its marshalling of non-heteronormative joy, resistance and tenacity, motivates this close reading series, which specifically engages the work of POC Queer Poets, in international space. People of colour have been vital to queerness before queerness had a name: this is one way to witness that, to embed my reading practice in it, and to raise my brown, queer fist in yes.

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