Tuesday 5 May 2020

4 Poems by S.K.Y. Varnam


I have no use for images of wheat fields,
children with sun in their hair,
women bright with fertility,
arms heaped with grain,
feet in the fecund dust.

To my ears, “harvest” speaks of hunger and All Hallows;
the hanging ropes of the gallows swing with the waving wheat.
My voice echoes the uncertain rhythm of the heart,
frost-edged with the reminder that one day the beat will stutter,
winter descending with the rush of the reaper’s scythe.

I bite the fresh-picked fruit with the appetite of famine.


I suffer from hesitant incisors,
coy canines, a tense tongue.

I must train myself to savour the sweeter things.

Pry fresh cookies off a hot baking tray,
fingers slightly scorched, delicious.
Dent crisp meringue. Sample chocolate chips.

Let honey coat my fingers.
The chilled spoon accuses me.
Dessert sits melting;
my throat is dry.


My body no longer craves sweet things,
nor does it hunger for blood.
My limbs devour sleep instead,
pulling me down to gorge
on a poorly made bed.

They drag my prey to me,
rumpled fabric trapped in my embrace.
I’d gnaw my sheets to shreds
to feel rested.


Grandma speaks of s*vages and peasants,
the virtues of classical music and gold jewellery,
while living in an apartment with cheap parquet floors.

When I was a child, she was a witch
who baked shortbreads.
I was no Gretel;
I would not be fooled by gingerbread.

Now she’s teaching me to test dough
the way her grandmother did,
squeezing it in her fist ’til it muffins up over her fingers.
She encourages me to use my hands when baking
and tastes the raw dough, telling me her grandmother told her not to,
that it would make her sick.

Now she has her timid moments.
She forgets things—even baking ingredients.
But she also makes these jokes,
sometimes with a sly look,
with an open-mouthed smile
I never noticed when I was younger.
I wonder if it’s the same smile she had then.
It allows me in.


S.K.Y. Varnam is a queer, neurodivergent, and disabled Toronto-based writer, artist, and editor, as well as the founder of The Quilliad Press. Much of their work focuses on neurodivergency, queerness, and feminist themes. Their work has been published in several journals, including Hamilton Arts & Letters, The Quarterday Review, Breath and Shadow, Third Wednesday, and Transition Magazine.

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