In a kung-fu movie, the acrobat outlaw
performs sword dance and somersault
guided by divine instruction.
Frowns gather enough munitions
to discharge thunder from a single
thought. Enter the villain who
takes for granted: this is a lady.
Balanced on one leg
justice kicks rogue ass
over Hunan Province.
The village retrieves its grain.
Children, freed from collateral
resume childhood again.
Women, released from feet
neatly shaped into hooves—
are taught how to wield
long poles tipped with blades.
I’ll trade scenes with her:
one act of power enacted
beyond conceivable degree.
Anywhere but here, inside
this trembling body. Alone
on a midnight avenue, I clutch
house keys too early for home
wondering, under a dull moon
whether I’m being followed.
The woman with red hair fumes
waiting for her turn in queue.
You feel blasts of exasperation
travel over the heads of others
while a phone rings yet
another scattershot round
of wants and needs– not letting up
even after sixteen jangles.
The man you provide with textbook
civil service has too many questions.
It is hard to pay attention, to
address him at eye-level
and flirt with protocol
because you left contact lenses
over at the other counter
where a loading dock alarm
has just sprung its latch and the keys
to silence this intrusion walk
off-duty in the back pocket of your colleague.
So you press the knob in your back
surgically modified as extra vertebrae
and launch yourself out to meet
all demands, faster–harder–better than ever
covering more than one desk
with talent-ridden parts of your body.
Legs zoom towards the cash register
make a sales transaction quick
but you forget to stay in your shoes.
They smoke underneath the computer terminal.
They burned holes in your stockings.
One arm unlocks an extra foot to
pinch keys without pinching
the butt of your colleague, then
cranks over to disconnect the alarm
without disconnecting your shoulder.
You clamp phones in your teeth
jab “hold” buttons with your nose yet still
manage to point someone to the washroom.
By the time shift is over
there is nothing left
except little pieces of you
dispersed like beads of mercury
that sparkle and glob along
to do this all over again.
When maintenance crews arrive
they look at you and yell: “Smile!”
The shadow walks in front
like the judoka she use
to be but isn’t anymore.
It locates the centre of
gravity in a woman’s hips
yet keeps her posture erect.
A thought runs up, whispers:
Don’t you know? You are now
sixty plus instead of twenty-four.
You enjoy cozy murder
mysteries where a corpse
is discovered on one page
then next, a recipe for peach
scones. You think crossword puzzles
and Sudoku the best kind of
training for mornings of indolence.
What kind of warrior follows
paths of least resistance until
‘the gentle way’ finally takes
too much effort to maintain
even a semblance of philosophy?
Worst of all, your own body uses
future momentum against you.
The shadow walks faster, strides
like a samurai or comic book
superhero. Darkness deepens
in proportion to the growing
light; it tries—no luck, to pull
itself further and further away.
Jean Eng: "I am a visual artist and writer from Toronto, Canada. My writing has appeared in journals in Canada and the U.S. Recent publications include Vallum, WomenArts Quarterly and Grain Magazine. I also work as a library technician for the University of Toronto."