Nicole Lee – 3 poems

Memory Foam


We bought him a stick and a handheld buzzer

We put in grabrails and ramps and when

we took away his car keys we got him a

wheelchair which he hated and a top

of the range mattress that we never took

the plastic off of but none of it worked

and he went ahead and died anyway


On that childhood trip to Cherating

he brought us through the looking glass

mountains to the east coast it was raining

and someone had shaded the sky over

the South China Sea in 3B Faber Castell

strokes with savage dints for seagulls

an oil tanker swivelled towards the dock


and a dark-red stream flowing between

crumbling sandbanks cleaved the long

white beach it’s the iron in the water

he said coming closer we saw the banks

were sulphur-flecked tide-gnawed pillows

of foam he lined us up and took pictures

in which we looked lost and he was missing.


Going Outstation


I stop in the government resthouse

at the milestone before the gap

2 hours from town and there’s a

chill here in the foothills I call for tea

and while I wait delete Alice’s text

Sorry mum something’s come up xxx


On the Gap Road I park and read

the broken sign in two tongues there

at the very spot where Jim Thompson

disappeared – they don’t say died –

it was the height of the Communist

Emergency but maybe he’s still alive


Maybe he thought I’d rather be alone

maybe he walked off into the jungle

left the silk behind the gin exchanged

Bangkok gossip for chattering macaques

maybe he doesn’t lie in the rich humus

thirty stab wounds in his belly spilling


light like silver in the deep deep dark

of the cloud forest I am lost I drive

around till nightfall the mist seeps in

through the cracked window like a

patient ghost I don’t dare look back

as the night fills with inhuman cries


no one is waiting for me at the guesthouse

no one knows I’m coming no one knows

I’d rather be alone why go on trying

when on this ancient limestone spine

pinked in green satins I could disappear

becoming merely breath a broken sighing


Urganda the Unknowable to Amadis of Gaul

                                                            The Unfindable Island

                                              in the Year of our Lord MMXX


My friend


How long since we saw each other!

I never imagined – I always thought –

that another would come who’d

take the shine of you from my eyes

but it’s been five long centuries

and as the leaves dull to copper in the

long wastes of my woods and no welcome

clash of steel makes my heart leap up

I am forced to recognise that truly

the times that made men like you

have passed – my time has passed –

and my island is full of ghosts

of whispers and the panting hart

no longer leaps from the trees

pursued by a bloody-mouthed lion

and it’s no longer fun to shift shapes


Through every transformation

the true me comes shimmering

through stronger and stronger

and I miss you Amadis how I

miss you my unlover my pure one


You thought I knew everything

and I did and I was unknowable

and I was but now that you’ve

been gone so long and it’s clear

that that adventure was your last

that you will never come back or

find the island I took such pains

to make unfindable I can tell you

at last because this is the last thing

that I know that you don’t know

(I will never send this letter)


Urganda sends to the sweet the valiant

the first of knights Amadis her love


Nicole Lee was born in Kuala Lumpur and educated at Malvern and Oxford. She has worked as a banker in Hong Kong and London and now lives in Wandsworth, works in Kew and writes poetry. She has been published in various online journals and long-listed in the National Poetry Competition.