I do not believe it when I win Miss Universe.
Cameras flash, all asking the same question,
and my smile is the only correct response.
I am opening my legs like Annabel Chong
to Hollywood and endorsement deals. I am
making the world a better place one wave
at a time. Every terrorist who sees me on TV
is lowering his gun to the ground, turning
his unshaven face up to the sky to cry.
Marriage offers gather like surf at my door.
The man I pick is rich, old, American
and a bore. I am the centre of every party.
Soon I am the mother of two, twin girls
as beautiful as me. But time feasts on my health
and I am diagnosed with something terminal.
Everyone—the media, my family—visits
me at the hospital. Even now, everyone
wants to know how I have stayed this happy.
Before I wake up from this nightmare,
gasping and begging for my lover’s embrace,
I am sitting in a white bed, looked on by
sad smiles and nodding heads, cameras
snapping away like dogs outside my room,
barking that one question over and over.
With a smile and wave and diamonds in my eyes,
I reply the way I have always replied.
The lovers wait to lose their balance. They would dive
gratefully into the half-dark, picking fingers, thighs, lips
and tumescent parts. But wait, let’s stick to beginnings.
Before a rustle in the chest, there were first meetings
in crowds and along unremarkable corridors. A grin, a look
and the memory shrinks to the here and now, re-playable
for future use in the hour before sleep, the hours before
they meet again. Living is an endless piece of rope.
The lovers are jaded funambulists, steady gait slowed
by the weight of loneliness. But legs quiver now, the bait
already cast. And whose heart is not a hungry fish?
When I kissed your ring all those years ago,
I was one in a thousand there that morning
to see your smile and that half-wave for real.
Did you know I was tempted, peering up
from your hand, to ask, What about us?
I was only a boy. Inwardly, I did ask, staring
straight into your eyes with what you must
have dismissed as the usual awe and devotion.
Perhaps I believed you could be something
else that moment, a presence that would
at least register the longing and fear nestled
at the heart of that question. Ten years later,
watching the news about your death,
I would ask, What about you? This time,
I hurled the words with my mind to the view
of flats outside the window above the image
of your fans crying into cupped hands, not
caring if anybody would hear, let alone
hint at a reasonable reply. Your impossibly
round face bobbed up on the screen, smiling
to hide the grimace in your eyes. I looked
back out the window again, listening instead
to the man breathing beside me on the bed,
his hand like a buoy on the rise and fall
of my belly, nothing left now to ask you
that I had not already asked the sky, its small
congregation of stars, that whittled moon.