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

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
related to. 

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 
when attacked.     

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 
everything’s fine.     

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’


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.