If you read this backwards blood becomes wine by Jordan Hamel
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.
Jordan 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.