Eric Jiang


can you hear me I can hear you
the trees are a comfort
to the fact
a corporation has christened
an old verb into something new

the birds of different cities are communing with each other
though they could never fly close enough to be properly acquainted
singing tinny songs through my phone speaker
as we walk through corresponding reserves

i think they are confused.
and that we are the same.

at home
let’s pretend
we’re eight years old again
at a sleepover

only this time
let’s push our rooms together
in cyberspace

in this place we’ve made
can you close the window
(all of your metadata is floating away)
(into the blue-bit night)

cut out the middle part entirely

the going from one place to another
the walking
the train
the walking again

it’s a drag

let’s not go anywhere
no more going
only gone
strange how connecting two places that are so comfortable
can be so uncomfortable

i can see what you have on your walls
and you on mine

who’s opening that door?
never mind they shut it.
(but they’re welcome to come in)

I miss it

the warm-down when you filter through
strangers in the street
(warm bodies and conversations that aren’t yours)
the changing of space
gradually easing you
into aloneness

no more of that here

cut out that unnecessary middle bit
that middle bit being
the entire world

the rows and rows
of food and gravestones
and lists of places
we cannot go
or never should’ve gone.

wasting hellos on unsmiling passersby
who deflect your greeting
into the neighbour’s garden

not today

(were they like that before?)

or dad leaving out the “myth”
in “model minority myth”
and i’m too tired for this
so i skirt out the kitchen

he’s dropped the “myth”
like dead jasmine

pin it on the wall

and remember
the body all delicate
passing through tunnels
slicked with static

and steady yourself
and the light’s dimming
and your foot’s sliding
all the way
to the end of the tunnel

and at the end is an eye
and the eye is opening
in aisle four
equidistant between cartons of milk and chewing gum.

i can feel it.
this place
is stained.

now i was once afraid
of it
and once is enough

i grab the packet of tim tams
which crinkles reliably in my hand

the sound reiterates
a particular memory of elasticity
of the air teasing back and forth.

i knew the air had that property.

the undercurrent of
a menacing vibration
is just a vibration

reality is supple here
and look


it springs back

like nothing happened
at all

About the Work

Rooms is a poem + illustration which identifies different physical spaces and how they have been transformed by the pandemic. It also lightly navigates the experience of being Chinese during the pandemic, and the level of comfort and discomfort while situated in these spaces as a result of the pandemic drawing experiences of racism in the past into sharp relief, with these spaces also being a source of tension due to well-documented then-ongoing experiences of racism.

The illustration accompanying the text plays with simple prisms of space. The way that the pandemic has reconfigured personal spaces is first and foremost presented through the image, and is a recurring theme in the text – how space has changed physically, socially and politically. The intimacy that the persona speaks with also conveys how the pandemic has transformed space as such to result in moments of intimacy not so keenly felt previously.

The poem touches on a few different feelings and moments which I experienced during and after the lockdown period. I aim to bring a lightness to these moments and thoughts, while always treating them with care and validity.

About the Creative

Eric Jiang is a Chinese-Australian artist based in Sydney. His words have appeared or are forthcoming in Voiceworks, Going Down Swinging, Meanjin blog and Rabbit. He also recently participated in The Laboratory, a playwriting incubator jointly facilitated by Montague Basement and KXT Bakehouse. He is currently an ArtsLab resident for Shopfront Arts Co-op, where he is making a video work that contemplates queer time, friendship and the Chinese diaspora, and in 2021 he will be the writing coordinator for The Waiting Room Project, an art space located in the Sydney Sexual Health Centre.