If you read this backwards blood becomes wine by Jordan Hamel

By Wasafiri Editor on April 25, 2022 in New Writing Prize, Poetry

Wasafiri is proud to publish the shortlisted works of the 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. These poems, essays, and short stories detail a range of emotions and experiences, produced by skilled new writers from all over the globe. In this complex and moving poem, Jordan Hamel interrogates the body, religion, and depression.

The 2022 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open until 30 June. You can enter the prize and read more about it here.

If you read this backwards blood becomes wine


The only difference between depression 

and baptism is who gives the body, 

trust me I’ve worn both, stiff like fixed form.


I need to keep some skin in the game,  

I need to explain feeling nothing 

but there’s no parable for absence, 

just a dead language carving itself 

into the architecture of eternity.


Rule one is only communal sorrow 

can fertilise the garden, but I’m a recreant 

botanist built from stolen parts, the loneliest  

green thumb and ribs to spare. So I collect 

small miseries for every sacrament,


I steal them off your plate when you’re  

in the bathroom, I grow them inside me,  

I play them classical music, I regurgitate  

bread for nutritional purposes, I fish them out  

with an old rod from the shed, I weigh them


for science, I take a picture for my miserable 

trophy cabinet then sell them back to you! 

When I’m ready to bear fruit 

it will be less… transubstantiation  

more…  Initial Public Offering


Can you really afford not to? I’m bullish 

on all things confession and rule two is 

never short the economy of sadness. 

Rule three is take the seven moments  

of your life that define you, let them fight


over the right to be forgotten, anoint 

what remains and bury the rest. 

I used to whisper last rites to myself 

and pray I’d never wake up, I used to 

pack my mouth with dirt to see what grew. 

Image of Jordan HamelJordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based writer, poet and performer. He was the 2018 NZ Poetry Slam champion and represented NZ at the World Poetry Slam Champs in the USA in 2019. He is the co-editor of Stasis Journal with Sinead Overbye and co-editor of a forthcoming NZ Climate Change Poetry Anthology from Auckland University Press. He is a 2021 Michael King Emerging Writer-in-Residence and has recent words in The Spinoff, Landfall, Newsroom, Re:, Poetry NZ Yearbook and elsewhere. 

Photo by Jon Eric Marababol on Unsplash