Cultural Memory - Poems by Hana Wisnuardi
By Hana Wisnuardi
her nursery still has rabbit fur from the old tenants,
but her mother is thrifty, piling it into a carpet of pillows.
leafling feathers and green sponge cushion her daybreak shell,
loose stems and dirt crumbs forge a tiara on top,
like wayward earth floating and perching upon a barely purple sky.
she hatches dressed in a babydoll silhouette of black fluff,
but the tiara shatters with the cracked lilac skull,
the opened package of her homecoming.
the sound of a colony thrums underground to her
like she is still unborn, hearing the folding
of her mother’s digestion and heartbeat.
she drinks sand eels whole for each meal and snack,
and the lip of the spoon is her mother’s summertime beak.
she sheds her down dress and flees home
during some night when she is fatter and wilder and knows.
she rushes to the plump yolk suspended just out of reach
wearing only the sleek contours of her maturing feathers
and her webbed grey-pink boots.
the cliff holds her like a jagged uterus as she is summoned
by the contraction, the gravity of the yolk and sea, before the fall.
she tumbles into the onyx waters, christens it with feet.
the moon jumps in after her, broken and runny.
it merges with her body and the body around her,
and she dunks her head in to taste. salty, fortifying.
it is her second hatching; wide and flowy,
somehow less wet, and cleansed with sparkles up to her eyes.
By Hana Wisnuardi
The blunt beak will not allow it.
She sores with the phantom tip
the bush of axon sprouts, microscopic weeds,
the pulse in her and an inch in front,
the heartlet of cauterized nerves,
what it was.
Her breast is a drenched cloud, a bursting tumor, and still drooling for food.
The calories are all she has, but against the ants bubbling in her keratin lips, what is it for?
The fire bite blooms inward from the past, bleeding through
A rot with its roots in zygote.
She was born into it – the process, the spot she stands and defecates and
She sees her dead neighbor,
craves to peck at the life’s warmth of viscera.
If she eats enough, she’ll step inside and curl like a larvae-spiral fetus into the shell of ribs.
She cannot indulge with her stump of beak. She stares at her battery cage.
and that’s it.
She dreams of thousands of years ago, of foxes.
She dreams of predation,
the velocity of it,
the snap of synapses like breaking her bones,
cursing at her to run.
She knows this.
She wishes to rest in her dead neighbors. She remembers being in mothers.
Bloated pearls, whiter than milk, more calcium and less salt, full of gooey meat.
After hatching, there was supposed to be a juicy, nutritious light.
She emerged, wet, buried alive among her own in stalls of dirt and shit.
When her eyes smear back into her brain, the perpetual motion of hens becomes a mass of
If she could fly away, she would bathe in the grass,
blow-dry in the sky,
be torn apart by a coyote
and licked clean by a vulture.
Let me return as a seed in a belly, hot ovary, or cold carcass, or
let me be ripped to death by any mouth and its splurging tongue.
She will never be old. The flesh of her breast will spill like mold until it is
greater than her,
a parasite on its own.
Then it will be cleaved from her by no teeth of God’s design, but smithed steel fang.
She was young, and thus she was damned.
“His calves do not inherit civilization”
By Hana Wisnuardi
I. As a peachy calf he embarks
He is a ship built around a keel
of thick collagen spine
black and white Jolly Roger
adorned with his family’s paint
Sweet satin sashimi is
made only by the tear of flesh
Herring is his favorite recipe
Turtle is his sister’s
Lumpfish and parrot shrimp
do not bow to statues of his foremothers
pared from walrus tusk
and heralded by palms of coral
Here relics are not gods
What is feared and loved
is the Orca garment
the pattern of their flesh and
the cape of their fins
sewn together by spindle-cell spun
voyages and games
clicks and moms
II. The reaping begins
when there is a sardine in the sky
to accompany the sun
His mom pleads for his life
The calls pulse like a wound
and fall upon barnacles
clinging to a mob of stuck-up skulls
that cannot hear what she is asking for
They teach him tricks
If he does them right
they throw him strain-bodied fish
that they hunted first
The meat is chilly and brittle as snow
and it never writhes in his mouth
or feels silky when he swallows
There is never a chase
He does tricks
to appease the predators
A swarm of eyes converge
on him from above
in a way that only means appetite
Teeth are bared
and there is a roar
and what else can he do
He checks for his own blood
He is trapped prey
and he must dance
The surface of the water is
but he does not necrotize
They always have plans for him
III. When his calves are born
they are not swaddled
in rich darkness
or cackled lullabies
or tides that always pull
toward the sun or sardine
or big snowball in the night
There is a crushed seed
in the calves’ instincts
The past glows through them
Algae froth and
moonlit pods and
life as small as salt
giggling and spilling everywhere
But the calves will forget soon
The seed with grasping
baby radicles will spoil
and the glow will wane
“Baby Needs, Mother Gets”
By Hana Wisnuardi
The horsefly is ripe with seed.
The seed lay in waiting, fertilized but not yet hearty.
Not yet full enough to burst.
Strength, strength. Give us strength. You know how to, the seed coax.
We will know, too, someday, the girls vow.
The mother is accustomed to unfurling proboscis and sucking flower water deep from the stamen, but baby needs.
Tall animal, foot to foot, forward, one at a time.
Hot, fibrous puffs blow forth from its nose and mouth.
The grass and flowers beneath breathe it in.
It is the innate invitation of food being made.
Mother knows this animal has what baby needs.
The surface she lands on is smooth, but not leaf-like. It’s warm.
She asserts her feeding stature by planting her claws.
The scissors of her mouth cut into it.
So tender. Wet underneath.
She waits for the meal to swell into a juicy drop. The flower water comes in drops, too.
She likes it. So must baby.
She mops up the blood neatly with a different piece of her mouth. Scissors can’t absorb, and she can’t waste a bit.
Pat. Pat. Pat.
Millions of years ago, the first of the mothers drank cold, Cretacious blood for her babies.
Blood, the nourishment of her lineage. The life-bringing drink.
And there, in her primal function, she remembers the taste of protein and of body.
She was wingless and legless once, and she ate.
She ate brothers and sisters and lookalikes and tiny things that crawled over land or water.
She was voracious with her young mouth.
Like mother, like baby.
Now, she will digest the blood with her adult midgut.
It takes a few sunrises for the protein to weave a yolk in the eggs.
The babies will devour everything they can get, and they will bloom.
- Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Hana Wisnuardi is a writer who strives to
combine the implications of violence, the consequences of religion and place,
the cultural memory of animals, and the way that queerness affects people’s
yearning to have value. Through her work, she loves to explore the thread that
weaves the human, inhuman, and non-human. She has a cat named Squid, a Giant
Microbe collection, and a yearning to go tidepooling. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org