Poetry: Tess Joyce


The Mangrove Swamps of Waigeo

It’s been days since the moon was last fed.
There it is, waiting to guide the cumi
back out to the light.

Locking tentacles, the squid kiss
below a mangrove tree too absorbed
to note their courtship –

its bosom-like roots
tease the pumping sea that brings it fish
eggs, Christmas Tree Annelids, the squid

that every skinny month will follow the fisherman’s
towards a rumbling tummy.


The Indonesian Ng

Ngak-ngik-ngok, ngak-ngik-nguk, is the sound
of cacophonic music.

The ng comes from the nose
like a black magic barely told.

It is the death
of stability and the panic that follows –

it grows. Out the mouth, like ngap-ngap
which is a gasp, a pant and all that’s too hard

to explain. It’s really unknown,
so we replicate the sounds, located

in the green. There are always sounds, apophenic
in their distribution – ngeong, of a cat, the tears

and ngeak of a new-born. Daring to stop at ng, we savour
a base. Upon which, we pivot.


Koko Could Sign One Thousand Words

Do you want a baby, they typed
on the AOL chat with Koko, Congo gorilla –
she was bursting with burgers in a research vat.
And signing lipstick, she soothed fingers over glossy
magazines. She loved us, the rouged apes
with big, big plans and dreamt we’d allow her a family.
Send her to a zoo in Hawaii with plenty of bigtoe boys,
to make a baby and carefully glide it, as if on ice,
with her soft, padded hands.

Perhaps, from her island, she’d seen videos
of gorilla babies playing and envied the pursed lips
of wild females, seducing a legend into copulation.
There were none of her burgers, lipstick or yoghurts
in the Congo’s lowland mountains. Just a plethora
of green leaves and buds without ‘signs’
reeling beyond her imagination.

Tess Joyce is a British writer who currently lives with her husband on the island of Waigeo in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, where she enjoys the sea and travelling around on a little boat with oars. Her poems have been published in Orbis, The Journal, BlazeVOX, Ditch, Four and Twenty, Anatomy and Etymology and Phantom Kangaroo. In 2009 a collection of her poetry was published in India. The book was a collaboration with an Indian writer.