in The year of blue water, Yanyi wrote truths
I had no language for until now
‘poems are a way to ask for what exists, to invite what wants to be visible’
I populate my poems with living nothings
my mother is just a sinkhole on your train line that really wanted to feel full/fed
my father is our dog’s enthusiasm for strangers, attention & food scraps
my family is a jellyfish just waiting to fire their harpoons of venom instead of communicating
I have many nothings to make happen
as in sometimes I don’t want to be the large bear plush toy my family doesn’t know how to transport, sometimes I want to be the cute eevee keychain they attach to a bag & don’t have to think about
I read an interview with Chelsea Hodson & she says
‘when I feel hopeless,
I turn things into other things’
a poem means literally
a made thing,
as in sometimes
love makes me feel hopeless
as in it’s as vast as the fatberg
they found choking up London’s sewers
love can feel inert, inefficient
as in it’s a lost monkey wrapped up in a shearling coat at Ikea
peering out the sliding doors at the big bad world
a made thing
why is everything about process
or transformation? the only way
I know how to understand things is
by making them into something I can chew up &
dirty little spitwads of words
a made thing
as in my family will never read my poems
but I keep writing odes to them
as in every poem
it feels like a dog that’s been
lovingly knitted jumpers out of their own fur
& then posed for very-normal-not-at-all-weird
& felt & twist into each other
& still don’t make sense
but a poem is a made thing &
if that’s not love then
do you ever not
think of your mother?
I’m constantly mothering my mother, even before she lost her own
have you ever felt this unease?
she tells me:
itchy nose = you’ll be mad
itchy left palm/itchy right palm = you’ll get or take money/you’ll lose or give money
itchy ear = a phone call, hearing news, maybe bad news? she can’t remember
she wants to be a clean home & warm meals without the strain
I want to give her everything she’s ever asked for
I want her to work in translations & have time for long baths
her sisters & picking plums in her cousins’ backyard
have a dishwasher, aircon & blinds that work
remember that winters in Bosnia don’t always mean death
but can mean honey brandy & a week-long card game &
roasted chestnuts on street corners
do you want things for your mother?
when I live away I notice even puddles of water
remind me of them & how this manifests in my poetry
because much of what I want to show them I can’t
for now, I can try
not to hide my predisposition
to passionately sharing the world with them
while they are alive
I’ve always felt home more than knowing it as a place &
without them, I’m not sure I’ll have anyone to give me
have you tried to detach yourself to avoid
all the consequences of love?
I have a history of
going full sicko mode
to be selfish & free
even though it’s impossible
I’m intertwined with my family
sometimes people (cc: parents) love u too much
& it’s like … don’t u know I’m a brat?
don’t you know that I fundamentally fail at growing up?
don’t you know I cry every birthday without fail?
don’t you know that I used to
shoplift zucchini flowers, to dust in flour &
stuff with similarly thieved ricotta,
to borrow a feeling of financial security?
don’t you know that I have accidentally started three fires in my lifetime?
don’t you know that I relate heavily to the mimosa pudica?
as in shrinks away from touch
as in sensitive plant
as in I AM BABY HEAR ME ROAR
love of any sort just feels like snail-fucking
like being stabbed with tiny love darts
I have calculated
the carbon footprint
I will leave if I go home
it will cost me
47 dollars to offset
22.5 tonnes of
I come from a swamp,
which is another way to say I relate a lot to Shrek
lots of impenetrable layers
lots of very penetrable layers!
like an onion
a big onion
a huuuuuuuuge onion
it’s a long way to travel to be the
I don’t go
do you think they were like
why have you attacked me like this?
I think my Mama was as free as was possible in her circumstances
she tells stories about seducing men for a lift to Milan &
deserting them the moment she arrived
she moved to Vienna with a friend & worked in a pizzeria
she hasn’t told me why she left Bosnia but
I know she never lived there again once she did &
this is partly due to war
she liked socialising but only with people
she knew for a long time,
liked learning languages,
liked her Tata more than her Mama
when he was sober
my Tata has a lot to say
I think he went drinking & socialising as often as he could
he wasn’t serious about much but wanted to prove
that he could be/could get a job & a family
I think he was susceptible to looking for fathers in all his older friends
& quick to believe anything they said
he loved his parents & was so much like his Mama but was afraid of his Tata.
have there ever been silences you’ve agreed to?
under the false sky of
a workplace ceiling to the
soft chatter of my co-workers
talking about married at first sight
I watch bubbles collide
inside a water cooler & think about how
my most distinct childhood memory/dream
(someone told me
that children don’t have real memories
just memories of being told about those memories)
my parents took me to a crocodile farm in Miri when I was five
(this is certified fact)
(& this part is unverified) but my foot fell through
a crack in the bridge, poised above snapping jaws,
raw chicken bodies floating to the muddy surface,
then was pulled up by parents
dream or memory or not
I wasn’t scared.
sometimes I’m a stranger to my family
but not in my poems
just because you love someone
doesn’t mean you know them—
my poems present the option of
them seeing the crack in the bridge,
& pulling me up anyways
what silences have
said yes to?
I collect nothings to put in my poems
all these nothings are too much to hold me
but I can’t show them to my family so here they are for the world
to see/I can show it to the world because the world didn’t birth me
as in I’m just an obscenely yellow, soft & squeamish chick in your hand
whose feet have to trust you are a stable surface
& yet I wish I could line my poems with moss so that if my parents ever
do find them they won’t see them clearly enough for the words to hurt
so I put my nothings in poems again as they have multiple selves
as they are the unknown amount of mushroom types in the world
living out of our understanding
as in no one knows & as long as there is something living, we’ll never find
all the types of love either
what do their names
mean to you?
hopes for a peaceful & contented life
don’t think I’ve ever seen her feel either fully…
mir means peace
she tries to keep peace but doesn’t hold it inside
her name is in conflict with itself/with her
mio –– quick to tell his life story
boisterous laughter & finds joy in conversations
maybe it means charismatic to me?
drag –– dragons? how they’re rare/precious &
misunderstood/often seen as beasts to slay
Tata struggles to communicate/find words
in English for his thoughts
is not always clear
I was today years old when I found out the word slave comes from slav
500 years of slavery has left us sickeningly dedicated to being the most
hospitable people, you have ever met
we are always serving more food
even if some days we don’t have enough for ourselves
thank you for asking me to dwell on their names.
what do your parents’ names mean to you?
my dad’s name
Means lucky one
but google translate thinks that it is
my mum’s name is so beautiful,
too beautiful for this world
it means dream orchid forest
it’s a point of contention that I
haven’t & won’t use my birth name
but it shrivels in comparison
put it in the bin & set the bin on fire!!!
I think of our love as
a flower pulsing between two chasms
a monster cannibal galaxy
gulping up planets with fine cutlery
a knife-wielding crow that’s become a newfound father
softness finds its edges somehow
why is it easier to write a poem
then it is to talk to your parents??
I know I will only hurt them more/will make my mother
run to her bedroom & slam the door/will
send my father fishing.
how everything that needs
to fall out of me
falls into poetry
how I’ve never been sure my love was the same
as others love, is this
what we all feel like when we sign our care away?
it’s nothing, they say
‘when you say it is nothing, poetry is where that nothing goes.’
I’ve tried to find some trace of the lives we’ve lost
They have kept close: death, war, poverty, discrimination
(can we ever find smiles here?)
I say, find me stories to dwell on
I don’t always find the house in Bosnia,
it is strange from above & the street name has changed
so many times (I don’t know why?) &
I’ve never known the number.
what makes you think of your family
/the ones you love?
maybe everything in the whole fkn world…
I watched this film, Yi Yi
& I totally lost my shit as in
sometimes I love movies because they turn off my tiny animal brain
& sometimes I love movies when they gut me, think sabrage! knife splitting champagne bottleneck but performed on the 86 tram, spraying innocent commuters
there’s this meta-scene
where weirdo/lonely/young/sweet protagonist
watches AV presentation about clouds
gets me thinking about how clouds
drift into each other’s personal space
without invitation or permission
often, we overlook their beauty
sorry to anthropomorphise
clouds can still exist as their own entities
even with my sick tendency to project on everything
they plunge back to earth
constantly overlapping scenes in this film
like this scene slowly receding to real rain like this scene
where laughter crossfades into crying
it’s like everything is always
trickling into & across each other
family is osmosis
boundaries are porous
it’s like this scene where
the supporting character is
pacing next to the ocean at night-time
sorry I just like noticing these things
we love who we love
we lose what we lose
how clouds come apart
who else can try for us?
to come back together
Panda Wong is an inefficient and constantly annoyed poet and writer living in Naarm/so-called Melbourne. She writes about the never-ending; irritating landscape of grief; complaint and feeling as expression; and online/IRL performances of grief/coping. Her poetry draws on silly little things like the run-on-sentence-headlines of The Daily Mail, chihuahua memes, and Kim Kardashian’s foray into morgue make up application. She is currently working on her first chapbook called ‘salmon cannon me into the abyss’.
She is currently completing her Master of Writing and Publishing at RMIT University and works as an Associate Editor at The Suburban Review. She has performed her poetry at Emerging Writers Festival, Digital Writers Festival, NIDAnights x Liminal, Incendium Radical Library, and more. Her writing has been published in The Lifted Brow, Rabbit, Sick Leave and more. Her favourite poet is her mum. <3
Anita Solak is a multilingual poet and writer. She is attempting to sort through the struggles of language, family, love and responsibility. Her work obsesses over reconciling the absurdity of the past with the absurdity of the present and the way languages take up space on a page. She writes to uncover all that is silenced in the migrant home and perform her confusion for the world.
She completed student exchange at the University of Birmingham in 2016, a Bachelor of Creative Writing in 2017 and is currently studying the Master of Writing and Publishing at RMIT University. Her writing has been published in Cordite, Rabbit, Voiceworks and more. She is fascinated by prosody, languages, community and place.
Runway Journal acknowledges the custodians of the nations our digital platform reaches.
Runway Journal is produced by a voluntary board and pay our contributors above industry rates. If you have found some delight in this content, please consider a one-time or recurring monthly donation.
We extend this acknowledgement to all First Nations artists, writers and audiences.
Runway is supported by