The Burning Room

(aubade on a picture of spontaneous combustion)

When my lover returns
to his wife, his suburban apartment, the comfort
of a seasoned bed bearing
his beautiful weight

I say nothing.
I do not nod nor sigh nor breathe the light
starting to bleed into the room
the colour of saints

being martyred in portraits.
I walk the gallery of his absence, a tourist only
to this surfeit of space,
the erasure of lines

that is his gift to me.
It is enough, I think, to watch over the wide
territory of his need, to guard
the frontiers of desire

with my body and silence.
It is enough. And so I do not stir,
even when the flames bloom
fresh petals

from my unbrushed hair,
pursed eyelids. I disappear
into photographic retreat,
chemical shadow. So

when my lover returns
I am already the ash he wonders at
and brushes gently away
from the hood of his car.

by Alvin Pang

‘The Burning Room (aubade on a picture of spontaneous combustion)‘ is copyright © Alvin Pang, 2012. It is reprinted by permission of Arc Publications from When the Barbarians Arrive (Arc Publications 2012).

Notes from Arc Publications:

Alvin Pang (b. 1972, Singapore) is a poet, writer, editor, anthologist, and translator. His poetry has been translated into over fifteen languages, and he has appeared in major festivals and anthologies worldwide. When the Barbarians Arrive is a collection of new and selected works, with some poems taken from Alvin Pang’s previous three collections. You can hear Alvin Pang reading from another one of his poems here and watch him on the Arc website here, where you can also read more of his work.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter; search for @Arc_Poetry. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

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