My father calls to tell me about loneliness
I have been getting more calls recently about loneliness
but I pay more attention to our olive tree

and how the people meet on our street like dazed passengers
stumbling where the light dims faster this time of year
it was lovely, my father is saying
about the stranger in Khandallah
who, unfurling a gardening glove, waved in solidarity but

I bake my room in lemon glow while the day unravels like a comma, a coma
where nothing waits like the window
watching the pigeons peck olive pits until they spit missiles in the air
& in my tea, I see John Everett Millais drowning Ophelia
her hair sinking to the bottom
and me, catching her in my throat
Maybe solidarity is people in Preston Market strangling spinach leaves with a sort of
my mother sending me homemade masks in Spotlight fabric

(migration prepares you for everything
– the insomnia
– her sweeping
– bent over the ground, kneeling)

it’s okay here, I tell my father
and when I hang up, it’s just me and the vowels cracking against the walls
the leaves kicking up dust again.


Wen-Juenn Lee is a writer and editor based in Melbourne. Growing up as a Malaysian-Chinese settler in Wellington, she uses her writing to explore concepts of home: a word that leaks. In her writing, leaks seem to take the form of place, memory, the body and her family. Gaps and spaces are also important for her, which shaped the form for ‘my father calls, but’. Her work has appeared in Landfall, Southerly and other places