Until 1913 when the practice was abolished,
prisoners in Lisbon Prison had to wear a hood
whenever they were in a communal space.
I lost my name, became a number,
was given a hood to wear.
Obliterated by the absence of light,
I confront you from within.
You do not know where to look—
yet you cannot look away.
You are crushed by my face
concealed in the darkness.
All you can imagine is your own face.
There is a sameness in my world
in the space where shadow meets light,
where light meets shadow.
There is a pause in penetrating a minute,
I do not know where to look—
reality laps at the edges of my life.
I feel suffocated. I am in a hood,
beside a hood, overlooking a hood.
I am a hood.
Once I could dance on a blade of grass,
my feet could melt stone—
now I am pinned down by earthbound clouds.
I thought I had eternity all buttoned up,
then you borrowed my raincoat, wore it daily,
left it billowing in the wind.
In its pockets I hid the bullets I took for you,
tendrils of time I lost, knowledge shucked along the way.
The shelter of my freedom.
Before the rain came, I tried to call out,
but my throat was stuffed with ash,
in that moment I knew—
dying of fright is an actual thing.
Clare Chu has published twelve books and numerous academic articles on Asian art. She collaborates with Hong Kong-based calligraphic and landscape painter Hugh Moss to challenge traditional media boundaries.