Vernacular

by Jeremy Hsiao

‘Sayang’ in Malay
is sweetheart, darling
to be loving
the way clouds
sleep with the sky
or the shadows nestle
in the moon’s crescent curves
‘Sayang’ caresses my bruises,
my cuts,
glass tears
sear my face
stitching nerve endings
together in silk
a wave of reassurance
whispering of the waters
they’ll return soon.
A word stretched
9000 miles,
a flight of sea, ground, air
each round vowel,
green felt hills
drawn out endings
two breaths, chilled air
intertwines between
hands of humidity.
‘Sayang’,
a prism of snatched rambutan,
calm coasts of Redang island, the jungles of Mulu,
the browning of satay, all over a flickering flame
but the world only sees
black-and-white films
from truths behind pigments
intercepted by corrupted irises
like a fractured telescope
but not for me,
for me the word drips healing flames
onto my scars,
‘Sayang’ stitches me together.