Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Christina Sng’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Lee Murray’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Geneve Flynn’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Christina Sng’s Sneak Peek
- Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Angela Yuriko Smith’s Sneak Peek
A preview of ‘Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken’
Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken
Poetry by Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn
Tortured Willows is a collaborative collection comprising 60 poems expanding on the themes of otherness, expectation, and tradition that were introduced in our multi-award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards).
I am a fourth-generation Singaporean-Chinese. My paternal grandparents were Peranakan and Teochew-Cantonese, while my maternal grandparents were Hakka and Cantonese. In Tortured Willows, I write about the horror stories and mythologies I grew up with from a unique blend of multiculturalism, modernism, and tradition.
With a foreword by dark fiction writer, poet, and historian, K.P. Kulski, the author of Fairest Flesh, and a stunning cover design by Kyra Starr, Tortured Willows releases on Poetry Day, 7 October 2021, from Yuriko Publishing. Today, I’m excited to give readers of The Horror Tree an advance peek of one of my poems from the collection:
Grandmother’s coffin glows golden
Beneath the filtered moonlight.
The little girl sneaks out of her flat,
Carrying Mao Mi*, her old tabby cat.
She tiptoes to the wake downstairs,
Where one group is preoccupied
Playing mahjong and the other,
Asleep on the white plastic chairs.
The girl climbs on top of the coffin
To see her beloved Mama* sleeping,
Her wrinkled face leathery
With the undertaker’s makeup
Lathered thickly on it,
Like peanut butter on bread.
Her eyes are sewn shut,
Lashes resembling dead spiders,
Her mouth unnaturally red—
She must have just fed.
The child curls up beside her
One last time,
Tears falling onto Mama’s silk top,
While Mao Mi gets restless
And leaps over the corpse
Down to the ground.
The child kisses her on the cheek
And whispers, “I love you, Mama,”
Before clambering out carefully
To find Mao Mi.
Child and cat are back in bed,
Fast asleep, pillow drenched
From a night full of tears.
Mao Mi stirs
When the sun warms her fur.
She licks the little girl’s face
Till she awakes
And the child cries again,
Remembering her Mama is dead.
Her mother swoops into the room
And scoops her into her arms, alarmed.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” the child asks
Through puffy red eyes.
“Mama is gone!” her mother exclaims.
“Someone took her during the night!”
The little girl knows better than to talk.
Mama once told her
That cats leaping over fresh corpses
Can resurrect the dead.
She hopes Mao Mi did her job well.
Mao Mi (mao1mi1) is an affectionate Cantonese nickname for a cat. I first heard this delightful name from my friend Janice who named one of her cats Mao Mi.
In my family, we addressed my paternal grandmother as Mama (ma2ma3) in Teochew. We grew up speaking Cantonese at home and Teochew at Mama’s house. Mama’s name was Mary Tan Ah Lew. She lived to 100, surviving two husbands, two world wars, and took her last breath with her loving family surrounding her. I don’t think she loved anyone more than she loved my father. This poem is dedicated to her.
Bent. Bowed. Unbroken
The willow is femininity, desire, death. Rebirth. With its ability to grow from a single broken branch, it is the living embodiment of immortality. It is the yin that wards off malevolent spirits. It is both revered and shunned.
In Tortured Willows, four Southeast Asian women writers of horror expand on the exploration of otherness begun with the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women.
Like the willow, women have bent and bowed under the expectations and duty heaped upon them. Like the willow, they endure and refuse to break.
With exquisite poetry, Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn invite you to sit beneath the tortured willow’s gravid branches and listen to the uneasy shiver of its leaves.
Christina Sng is the two-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Dreamscapes and A Collection of Nightmares. Her poetry, fiction, essays, and art appear in numerous venues worldwide and have garnered accolades such as the Jane Reichhold International Prize, nominations for the Rhysling Awards, the Dwarf Stars, the Elgin Awards, the Pushcart Prize, as well as honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and the Best Horror of the Year. She is one of the recipients of the 2021 Ladies of Horror Fiction Writers Grant. Her essay Final Girl: A Life in Horror was a finalist in the 2020 Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in Short Non-Fiction and her first novelette Fury was anthologized in the multiple award-winning Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women. Christina was born and raised in Singapore where she now lives with her children and a menagerie of curious pets.
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