The Window

after Marie Howe

Once in a lifetime, you will gesture
at an open window, tell the one who
detests the queerness in you that dead
daughters do not disappoint, free your
sore knees from inching towards a kind
of reprieve, declare yourself genderless
as hawk or sparrow: an encumbered body
let loose from its cage. You will refuse
your mother’s rage, her spit, her tongue
heavy like the heaviest of stones. Her
anger is like the sun, which is like love,
which is the easiest thing, even on the
hardest of days. You will linger, knowing
that this standing before an open window
is what the living do: that they sometimes
reconsider at the slightest touch of grace.


© Mary Jean Chan, from The National Poetry Competition/The Poetry Society.

‘The Window’ was shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2019 and features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2020  (Bookmark Content, £9.99) and Mary’s collection Flèche (Faber, 2019).

With kind permission of the poet

Mary Jean Chan is the author of Flèche, published by Faber & Faber (2019). Flèche won the Costa Book Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize. Chan's poetry has featured in or is forthcoming from The Guardian, The New Statesman, The New Republic, The White Review and The Poetry Review. Chan won the 2018 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem twice, receiving an Eric Gregory Award in 2019. In Spring 2020, Chan was guest co-editor at The Poetry Review. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chan is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Oxford Brookes University and lives in London.