Purgatory of Skin

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.
– Beckett

1.

Our longkangs are streams forsaken:
Tributaries of the great river,
Uncountable like the kalpas,
Of filth lowly and dreams forgotten.
It is a drunk malignant liver.

2.

He trudges amidst the froth and shit,
From the gutter of the shallow,
Of mud, of rain and worms
To the wet darkness of the deep.
He seeks the ablution of the soul.

Semangat, Semangat,
A vulgar boy of a spirit mediocre,
Possessed by fearful savagery:
He seeks the requiem of a renewal,
But what there is left for a retard?

3.

Grilled lights of an unrecognisable sun –
Long abandoned is the cold morning haze
amidst the cold trudging waters that churn.
Here is darkness, moss and a barren maze
Where no footstep would ever return.

These are the embers that burn underground:
Fiery ash and curling steam of Virgil’s dread,
An inferno of loath and fire drowned
Where even our dear Dante dare not thread.
These are the suns of a world without light.

4.

Semangat screams an animal’s holler:
In ash and mist he would linger,
Of skin and detritus he rubs,
Of folly and follicles he scrubs,
Of eyes and genitalia he stubs.

A distant thunder barrages –
There is a storm of rage above.
A brutal river usurps our purgatory.

5.

Now there is no more fire,
But your consciousness is aflame.
You are a smouldering iron
In a longkang of grime.

Every pore, every contour,
Of body and soul.
No more stain, no more pain.
There is only new skin:
White, pure and unblemished.

6.

What there is left of our Semangat
But a distant, displeasured cloud?


There’s this installation art piece called The Cloud of Unknowing by Ho Tzu Nyen that I really love. The Singapore Art Museum has it somewhere in storage; I don’t ever know when I’ll see it again. I’m a little depressed over this. It is one of the art works that has served as a muse for my little poem of six parts above.

And I’ve been reading a little too much T.S. Eliot recently.

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