Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Lee Murray’s Sneak Peek

  1. Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Lee Murray’s Sneak Peek
  2. Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Geneve Flynn’s Sneak Peek
  3. Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Christina Sng’s Sneak Peek
  4. Guest Post: Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken Angela Yuriko Smith’s Sneak Peek

A preview of ‘Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken’

Lee Murray


Tortured Willows—Bent. Bowed. Unbroken

Poetry by Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, Lee Murray, and Geneve Flynn


I’m delighted to join my Crane sisters—Christina Sng, Angela Yuriko Smith, and Geneve Flynn—to bring you Tortured Willows, 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). 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:



my grandmother’s cheongsam

sewn from a Shanghai sunrise

with deep slits and black piping


and those tricky filigree buttons 

that only a child’s fingers

can operate


I’ve seen a photo of her

wearing this very dress

at the age I am now


as slender as an erhu

dark hair like lacquered cabinetry 

she’s a picture of tradition


I lift the dress from its camphor chest

hold it against me

and reflect


on decades of dynasties

of we two, both daughters of the willow

and one of us a child of the devil


all it needs

is a minor alteration

to make space for me


I use the kitchen knife

slicing slivers from the hips

carving off the excess


and when at last I slip it on

my tainted blood blooms

red lotuses on sunrise silk


and I smile because it’s fitting


A very personal poem, “cheongsam” was inspired by a stunning cheongsam of pale silk decorated with dark piping that belonged to my grandmother, Wai Fong. Worn in the 1930s on her wedding day, when she was just nineteen years old, the garment was stored in a camphor chest for many years and might have seen more wear if any of my grandmother’s seven dainty daughters had been slim enough to wear it. Even more impossible for me, the half-caste daughter of a white devil (Caucasian) father. The poem is intended to demonstrate the otherness I experienced as a mixed-race child, even within my own family, and the desperate steps we might go to in order to belong.


Tortured Willows

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.


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