Sign In using your Campus Account

‘Second-hand’ by L Kiew – Primers Shortlist 2017

___(Penang, 1932)


Lao ma believes the dead
cling to their possessions.
My dress is red shantung;
its last occupant is
heart-broken and tugging
on my hem as I step
onto the polished floor.

My partner is her ex-
husband. He holds me out
at arms’ length, cold and stiff.
I waltz around, around.
When I sink down, a white hand
strokes my feet, smearing black
blood over my cracked heels.


Ah Jek visited that night,
breath stinking of arak.
Those black brogues. Give them back.

Five daughters, many school shoes.
There wasn’t enough
money to buy brand-new.

Shoes taken off, gather
dust and ash. Ah Jek wears
loafers, a paper suit.


In his office of black scrolls
Yama reads out the sentence.
_________I repudiate; not me.
I dispute until Dawn tugs
urgently on Yama’s sleeve.

Sticky rice, I’ll harvest next
time. _____His ink-stained index traces
down the next night’s ledger and
he goes.___ I am slammed awake.
Next door someone is crying.

I splay my bunched fingers.
In the first hand, a red silk
cord, a thin white braid of hair;
in the second hand, an egg.

L Kiew is on the ten-person shortlist for Primers Volume III. ‘Second-hand’ is from her shortlisted manuscript Foreign Language Syndrome. We’ll be showcasing the work of all the shortlisters writers over the next two weeks, so check back to read more poems.

A Chinese-Malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as an accountant. In 2017 she took part in the Poetry School/London Parks and Garden Trust’s Mixed Borders Poets Residency Scheme and has been accepted onto the Toast Poetry mentoring programme.

Add your Reply