Shen is a poet of Malaysian-Chinese origin. He was first published in Friendly Street Reader # 20, and has subsequently been published in many other volumes of the Reader, and many other Australian and UK literary magazines. In 2001 his first collection, City of My Skin (Five Islands Press) was launched. He currently resides in Adelaide, and has also lived in Perth. In 2002 he completed an Asialink Literature Residency in Vietnam.
In 2000 Shen won the Satura Prize for his poem “A poem only about garlic”.


‘Eating noodles…’
Mother says,
Putting down
Her coffee cup,
‘…the only thing
Chinese about you.’
I look up
from the steaming
bowl of noodles,
eyes half slit
against the dawn,
too tired to argue,
so I slip into
old habits;
an inscrutable smile
and a filial,
obedient nod.

From Friendly Street No. 20

Water reflects my face

A renga sequence
on the nature of time. Slow

of details like drops
into a glass of water
already filled to

the brim – an ever-
widening puddle on the table
top around the glass

becomes deeper. The
rippling water flows from high
to love, serene. I

can’t pick up the glass
without spilling though instinct
demands I try. One

by one the precious
drops I’ve save topple down but
I raise the glass to

my lips anyway.
No one ever gets to drink
when it’s completely

full. It’s never the
first sip which is most savoured,
but the last drop, which

never tastes the same
as the rest, which lingers the
longest on the tongue

tip. After that there’s
only this empty vessel
and water spilt on

a table – the face
captured in it growing more
distant each time

I open my eyes
to look, each time that water
reflects my face.

From Friendly Street No. 25

After the storm

I came across it in the morning,
a Moreton Bay fig tree split so two halves
spilled to left and right
as if they had flowed there like water.
I wondered where the lightning
had come from, why I hadn’t heard any thunder
above the sound of rain in the night.
The edges still smelled of charred wood
and ash ran tortuous veins all along
the sandy soil. Exposed, the circular grain
of its age rippled into the boundary
of its weathered bark.
I walked away and when I looked back,
saw two sides of an arch
bent backwards as if supporting a great weight,
or two open palms separating after touching
in greeting – the air between them
thickening with the slowly rising heat
of sunlight after the storm.

From Friendly Street No. 26