Allison Li
New Zealand

Karakia Precari - Penny Howard 2016
Allison was born in China but is a kiwi at heart and calls Auckland her home. She studied health psychology at the University of Auckland and currently works in mental health. Her writings have appeared in Potroast and Landfall.
Small Miracles

A toasty bed in December, sunsets,
mango sorbet, girly chats after dark,
late night reading, the sun after rain,
my grandmother's favourite flower,
a stranger's smile, poetry cafes,
stuffed animals with ginormous snouts,
fan fiction, dreams about tomorrow,
the forces of the universe, solitude,
love, music to soothe the soul,
cherry blossoms, fried rice green tea,
the first light on a winter morning,
grandparents, a hand to hold.


I am the small child
with haunted eyes and an insatiable
hunger for love. There are no
sun-soaked gardens,
a new mother's joy,
only the smell of burnt breakfast,
strange men and liquor; cold showers
to help me keep awake.

The sky breaks
though it is hardest to tarry in the
eye of the storm. Some say it's
a different kind of renewal
when the heavens begin to
split– to be born and to die and to be
reborn again, as if I am the first flower
to open in the cold.


As a young woman
I have come to view love
as ephemeral as the sunset,
where one moment of
flaming glory fades to black.
Daylight is fickle, the nights
long and lonesome;
lust seldom endures.

There are one hundred and
one ways to self-mutilate,
killing love before it flowers
is one. Maybe it is the way
I idealize romance;
pulsing red, my words
bleed still. Healing is an
arbitrary concept–

I am in love with sabotage,
the stitches on my heart,
and the idea I am fated to
go through life alone.


The garden walk glistens
With the six o’clock rain
falling around you in rivulets
and a stomach full of bubbly
You make a dash for the
poinsettias, twisting red
and green in the cold

It is almost the silly season
The streets will be filled
with merry people while
solitude chills to the bone

As the first light of morning swarms
over the city you close your eyes
and listen to the sound of laughter–
it jingles like bells in the distance
There is a boy you like across the
world’s biggest ocean, with kind
eyes and a smile that lights up
the darker corners of your soul

Bringing your mittened hands
to your mouth, you commit
warmth to memory and giggle
like you’ve never been hurt


It seemed only yesterday that
we peered into the well for the moon
You wanted to catch the stars, said
they’d look gorgeous on my sundress
I took your hand and looped my pinkie
around yours

Yesterday I watched you
leave for the other side of the world
The sky that carried you away
was a fusion of pastel blue and pink
You promised you'd return to hand me
the universe–

’til then we’d go round and round
like the sun and the moon
orbiting about the earth

Causes for Celebration


You were the first man to fall for me

You'd break into grins whenever I came into sight
Showing the cutest dimples
teeth pearly white

Your eyes would be glazed over
and grinning too

When time breaks you and life cannot keep you
A part of me will die also
to follow suit

I will be purged of happiness
but never love–

They say I have my grandfather’s smile


I cannot hear the angels sing, lullabies are
only chords and verses
without you

I am dressed in Chinese red,
among a sea of ivory,
you have made your home

You will never journey alone, lights in the
distance and candles dancing
all for you

Your smile has found me–
in flashes and echoes,
the wink of my solitaire stone