By Anna Forsyth
Someone slides open a drawer carefully
her gloved hands steady from practice.
Hector’s locked box was at the museum
his writing desk, the Burma-Siam Railway
trailing inky blood, perhaps etching names
His skin as thin as rice paper, I’m certain
there would be calligraphic bamboo scars.
The first tale inscribed is faint, as he was.
She needs her glasses for closer inspection.
Skin stretched like the finest parchment
translucence offers a reading of the bones.
He would be horrified to hear of yellowing
brings to mind other things, that jaundice
fingers, sepia photographs, nicotine stains.
She thinks of those illuminated manuscripts
uses a special lamp for a detailed viewing.
His children’s stories are superimposed.
Inscription on the tag: Hong Kong, 1954.
Damp days of rheumatic absence then
the valve of a father’s love damaged
tissue starved of vital oxygen by war.
Gloved hands to the temples, as if in prayer.
It is getting late and close reading is tiring.
In Melbourne, the wind is separating pages.
I finger the edges of the spine, eyes closed.
I see him standing on the bridge over Kwai.
Stories bleed their DNA into each other.
Tears make reading treacherous, that fog.
When it comes time to close that drawer
she knows the storied sigh
will not be the final word.
Palimpsest originally appeared in the collection, Beatific Toast (Girls on Key Press, 2018)