out of dusk light and straight into shepherds’ blood
smeared across the sky—I stand under the future
and wonder who will guide me to rest when I’m all
but gone—whether the future is finite or infinite
is something I’ll never know—at worst there will be no
reasons to pop champagne—no delight in apocalypse
when we’re made of flammable histories—fire won’t
slow down—it knows nothing about consideration
or when to call it quits—its speed is the rate of hope
conceding—of disarmament breaking into our
homes while we sleep—but if we were glowing lights under
crushing waves of smoke and ash—if our biology
were designed to signal restlessness and desperation by matching
heat with heat—tell me who would be the brightest—
and how many lives would I have to surrender
to reach into the sound of my body tearing itself
apart asking for help—to retrieve a dream that doesn’t end
with darkness being crowned the victor—some
of us kneel at altars—some of us offer the dead everything
they’ll need when they leave us—I remember scraps of
my past (what if that is all I’ll have to take with me?)—I
wander the present as a thief of what’s gone before—
stealing promises from one lover to gift to the next and expecting
the same response—that’s the corner I’ve backed
myself into—to have no recollection of how I got there and
what to do next while my eyes are alight and
my skin gives away my secrets—even with the presence of light
we’re no wiser than we were before we trusted
the sky to not combust or the earth to stay in one place—I still
think light is proof that something is happening
right before us—even when my vision stutters and I have no
reason to believe in hope—even when the deceits and
machinations of the present day seem unavoidable—it’s
enough to look up at a sky blushing red and
see possibility—to not worry how the end will reveal itself
Listen to Chris Tse read ‘Photogenesis’
Abandoned acceptance speech for Outstanding Achievement
by a Chinese New Zealander in the Field of Excellence
Thank you! Thank you! 多謝嗮, you impressionable bastards!
It’s an honour to stand here on the edge of this melon-green sea
with the foam seeping through my bespoke vegan leather sandals
feigning surprise to have received this in such a competitive year
of excellence by Chinese New Zealanders, some of whom I’m not
I applaud my fellow nominees. I’ve been in your position before,
and let me tell you that tonight your mattress may feel like a sack
of bricks as you struggle to comprehend this loss. Your time will
come, as mine has tonight, struggling as we all have with the shame
of desiring a validating slap on the back while everyone else suffers
from delusions of adequacy.
To receive this award is to receive a kiss from a drunken angel.
The smell of your putrid congratulations will cling to me for days;
I take great comfort in knowing that people will point and stare
when they realise I am the source of their unease. The path to this
moment hasn’t been smooth—in fact, it’s been booby-trapped
like a Home Alone film directed by the makers of Saw.
There have been sacrifices; there have been compromises.
But most of all, there have been awkward silences when I joke
about eating dogs in a room of my Caucasian peers, who clutch
their wine glasses tighter and don’t know whether to laugh or
call the SPCA.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done some things I’m ashamed of
to get to where I am today. It was what it was the day I decided
to change my name to John Smith to see whether my calls would
finally be returned, and it is what it is, this circling of reasons,
my achievements assessed and judged by a jury with no longing
for the taste of something wild, something that won’t retaliate
Life is the cruellest joker because it doesn’t fear the consequences
of its actions—that’s the only way I can explain how I find myself
to be standing here before this radiant audience of my peers while
another, more violent, crowd outside this theatre jostles like
Boxing Day shoppers waiting for the mall doors to be flung open.
I can already smell the blood marinating the air. Everyone has been
so generous with their attempts to destroy me, to teach me a lesson
about personal growth.
In hindsight, I should’ve reacted with more indignation, perhaps
organised a riot or two, but even fireworks have off days when
the sky is clouded over or there’s an unexpected whale in the harbour
we don’t want to spook. I thank you for this award, and see it as your
attempt to not spook me.
However, tomorrow, when the day is reset and this moment has
been immortalised as a self-deprecating yet earnest social media
post, I’ll go back to being an unironic plastic Buddha in a souvenir
shop next to the Mao bobbleheads and calligraphy sets.
No one else will remember this night and what it means to me.
The spotlight, with its selective amnesia, will find another face similar
to mine to bathe in adoration. The sky will regretfully inform me it has
no room for another star, that the empty expanse I see was reserved
centuries ago by people with the right names and faces.
I thank you for giving me this moment rather than tossing my
honey-coated body from the roof of this theatre into the crowd outside.
If I could only describe how blinding the lights are from this side
of the stage, how I can’t bear to look directly into what I can only
assume is a feeling of knowing there is a place for me.
Now that I’ve seen my name etched in gold, everything else is a
punchline that hurts to laugh at. If that isn’t success, I can’t imagine
what else I could do than to scream until my lungs pop. Don’t you see?
We’re all winners! And this is our shared reward for pretending that
So, once more, thank you—this award means more to me than
I’ll ever admit to myself. I leave you now with a reason to go on.
I leave you with a promise to destroy what you have built, as a
symbol of my appreciation.
Listen to Chris Tse read ‘Abandoned acceptance speech for Outstanding Achievement
by a Chinese New Zealander in the Field of Excellence’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC, and is co-editor of an anthology of LGBTQIA+ and Takatāpui writers to be published by Auckland University Press in 2021.