We are, I am

Here’s to the place that

gave me all my firsts:

my first home

my first crush

my first piano

my first heartbreak

and my first loss

It’s on your shores

where I learned

to walk, to cycle, to swim

I learned friendship

love and hatred

I learned how to fall

and get back up again

I learned who I am

because of you and

I am proud to be

the product of your

dawn and twilight.

I would return to listen

to streets singing in singlish;

yes I admit I would switch to it

in an instant if I could.

I would return to hawker

centres and nonya desserts,

to plates full of bee hoon and

brightly colored kueh

to nights brighter than days

to the early morning sounds

of aunties practicing tai chi.

I would.

Happy National Day Singapore.

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Janaki

The ease with which you walk

that lazy giggle, echoing like crystals

that clink and sparkle, but only just so.

 

Your wide eyes, amused at

my every story, trashy anecdotes.

 

Janaki, you inhaled the lives

you couldn’t live

you exhaled the wishes

you couldn’t feel.

 

Now you lie in the arms

of the man they said

you must love, but only just so.

 

Janaki, do you see, touch, shake

the bars of your golden cage with regret?

By the Edges

We dance along the edges of time

I never seem to have enough

you never seem to lack.

And each train signals the end

of another beginning

cut short, drowned out

by iron wheels on rails

by blank eyes passing

by fingers clutching.

 

We dance along the edges of our feelings

I never seem to have enough

you never seem to lack.

And each lingering glance signals

the crumbling wall of your emotion

silenced, suppressed

by railway loudspeakers

by the wail of an engine

by my waving goodbye.

Shirlene

Christ, Shirlene, your hands

the skin, stretched out tight against

your veins, every single one of them

your bone is too thin

to carry the weight

of your story

Tiny frame, tinier mouth

Sharp sense, sharper wit

I was scared, Shirlene

you burned me alive

with your orbit eyes

poker faced questions

I couldn’t answer

I wouldn’t if I knew

I knew you

but you knew me better

disappointment, you snarled

Undeserved, I thought

I hid the dollar coin

in my underwear

to hide the devil

from my mother

But maybe she could see

it was you, always you

Now I breathe these memories

through my mind’s archives

I don’t know you

anymore, Shirlene

but you

you still know me

you still watch.

 

 

 

A Ship Called Pandemonium

I keep borrowing the next second

when all I can afford is the present

You keep forcing your rhetoric

while I fake attention, stoic.

 

Do you listen to your own advice

Of monsters and mice

painting dreams with lies

staring death down with glass eyes

 

Ants can love too you know

microscopic intimacy

minuscule proclamations

lilliputian wedding bells

 

The snake, it hisses

Life is more afraid of you

than you are of it

the snake, it kisses

 

Beech wood, teak wood

anything but driftwood

I can build a sail

but will you tax me for the wind

 

I’ll row till I’m through

far away from you

far away from a maddening

world, a saddening sight.

 

Sail your ship

they said

but always into the tide

to be swept to death

is martyrdom

they said.

 

Evolution of an Ailment

Like how some scents stick in your memory

because they remind and some because they erase

Some gestures just echo sentiment

while the limbs move to appease and reject

A constant surge of emotions like an unending

car crash with you as the windshield

Here comes plunging the plenitude of our existence

into the silent platitude of nothingness

If you can set the arteries of my city on fire

then why not the veins of Asgard with desire

I can only tell you what the constraints

of your morality will allow me to

I can only hope for the cure to lie

within your jurisdiction, for this ailment.