Ghost poem #3 — The other side of the glass
I was working a sausage sizzle fundraiser
on the day George Michael died. His ghost
sat with me in my car while I scrolled through
social media exploding with grief and links
to his greatest hits. George took my hand
and told me not to cry before asking why I
smelt of burning flesh. Are we in hell? he asked.
Lower Hutt, I replied. My sunburnt neck
pulsed with residual heat or perhaps it was
the spark of a memory of watching him
perform at Sydney Mardi Gras in 2010 flanked
by shirtless cowboys, leather daddies and
policemen in latex pants. I think about it
all the time. Every now and then I crave to
feel that night again, slick trepidation running
down my spine every time I locked eyes with
another guy, hoping my smile would be returned
favourably. A certain beat can unlock the body
heat of that glittering night and all the other nights
of careless yearning since then tumbling
from limb-crushing dancefloor into the crisp
3AM air with his voice still ringing in my ears:
You’ve got to go to the city.
You’ve got to reach the other side of the glass.
Some of us are neither sunburst nor shade
but a symptom of formative summers caught
somewhere in between like hands pressed against
the edge of the rest of our lives. The glass was
my own making and all my future wonders were
one swift and decisive thought away. I wrote all
my desires in my breath for anyone to read them.
Chris Tse’s poetry has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and abroad. Chris is the author of two collections of poetry published by Auckland University Press: How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (winner of the Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry and finalist at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards), and He’s So MASC. He and Emma Barnes are co-editors of an anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers which will be published in 2021. He is The Spinoff’s Poetry Editor and is a regular book reviewer for Radio New Zealand and Landfall.