Cultural Memory - Poems by Hana Wisnuardi

“puffin princess”
             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
                   sperm and
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.
Breathes, hurts,
             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
             squealing mealworms.
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.
She flails.
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 shimmies
            He is trapped prey
            and he must dance

            The surface of the water is
            smooth lacquer
            polished ice
            He crystallizes
            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 lungbeat
            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.
Stomp. Stomp.
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

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