Tag Archives: Poems

All is cold

It’s because life exists in moments like this:
Where all is still and all is slow:
The orange light turns your hair to gold
And sets the emptiness in me ablaze.

But in a dying heartbeat, in a flickering eyelid:
All is dark, all is cold.

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Taxidermy and the Void Deck

Grandmother is dead.
A tigress in her life,
Now taxidermied in a coffin.

A family of unfamiliar cousins have been mustered.
Peanuts and melon seeds are the pills
that ease the pain of conversation,
The saliva for non-consensual laughter.

Fourth Uncle is the recalcitrant streak
of an insolent red shirt
in a void deck of white –
chrysanthemums, tissue, fluorescents.

The chants of nam myoho renge kyo
harasses the embalmed sleep of grandmother.
The fragrance of morphine lingers stiffly.
But her lipsticked lips are the prettiest
I’ve ever seen on her face.

Sixth Uncle is asleep at 4am,
I am alone in the vigil.
For the only time in our common existence,
Grandmother and I start conversing.

First in my crippled attempt at Cantonese,
The only tongue she knew;
And finally in English,
The language of my generation
that she’d never understand.

Have you eaten? Is it too hot in the coffin?
Are the lights too bright?

Do you still remember my name?
Would you like to hear about my dreams, my life,
my moral complexities and existential anxieties?
How was it growing up during the War?
Was there ever a moment of happiness with grandfather?
Did you find life meaningful and are you glad to go?

And as always and forever now,
There can only be a reply of utter silence.
Not even a crackle of a candle or a buzz of moth.

This is Singapore after all:
A void deck of exhumed roots and unspeaking history,
Of a phobia of the nostalgia and a poverty of memory.

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He Who Rebelled Against the Sun

I was born under the shadow of its light,
Doomed to the chill of its restless heat.
To forever prostrate myself in acquiescence
To the soundless music of the life infinite
It bestowed and it possessed.

I could not listen. I would not hear.
I turn away from the light that immolates
Regardless of my blaspheming eyelids.

Blood rays, fiery orange.

The light is all that is pain.
And I would surrender myself
To the deaf and blind.

Deafness, self-imposed,
That disables the soul.
Blindness, self-inflicted,
That breaks the better angels of our nature.

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5AM at Pasir Ris beach

Dawn is breaking upon the revelry of drunkards.
They yell all they can
Against the dying tenebrous night
That has yielded them not a denouement.

This beach is cold and nebulous
Dismal and obfuscous.
A bird is screaming out her lungs
in squawks of tuberculosed anguish.

Have you seen the morning tide?
It is a relentless murky blue
Melancholic and ceaseless
They lap these rubbish strewn shores.

The cleaner peddles a soiled dustbin
Dressed not for tropical heat
But the cold drafts of this alien land.
Strewn like cacti in a vast desert
Of sanitised street fluorescent:
The crushed plastic cups and emptied gin bottles
Of decrepit sorrows and buried pains.

There will be no sunrise for this morning.
It does not deserve one.

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20 Aug

Few things are as inviting as an opened MRT door,
Preluded by a hurtling wind that sends your hair to the heavens.
It is an air-conditioned existence in an island of heat,
Of draught light in the darkening dusk.

I was reading Dawkins’ God Delusion:
Those blistering covers that incite ridicule
and my blaspheming fundamentalism.
An auntie glares at me, with her glistening pearls of eyes.
She pierces my godless, soulless shell,
With festering agony and indignation in her offended heart.
I gaze back with mere heretical nonchalance.

My ears too have blasphemed: it is the voice of Leslie Low.
Every crooned word is a hollering protest, is an anguished lament,
Of guitar chords smashed by ellen keys
And drums plastered by bleeding fingers

They tranquillise the dark nights of the human soul,
And all its consuming vices of alcohol and sorrow.

Somewhere in this world of grey,
A museum curator is dragged through his heathen streets,
Where blood streams from the emptiness between his thighs,
The emptiness of iconoclastic castration.

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The Funeral

Your portrait stands proudly erect,
vaulted by a noose of chrysanthemums
as white as they are fake.
Your body is cold, decaying meat
in a sack of foul skin beyond
even the saving of a cosmetic cake.
Your visitors bow in prostration
before a gilded box of nothingness:
neither a soul nor a breath nor a heartache.

Oh the solitary loneliness of your being:
The slow sleep of death embalmed,
And the phlegm of thoughts entombed,
Oh the walls of the coffin, in rancid anomie,
Where you have far long since ceased to be.

Those monks that chant
like croaking frogs
spewing incantations of sutras that
sound more like senile curses of which
your unhearing ears cannot despise.
Those gongs and tocking fish-drums that
busk away like a beggar’s croon,
consoling you on your passage
through the eighteen hells of expiation:
deathly and agonised.
And the hell notes and incense
that chock the world’s light,
that lend the only semblance
of grey mournfulness
to the bright, unaffected skies.

They said, in prostrated vigil:
Oh he died peacefully in his sleep,
Such a tranquil smile, such rosy cheeks,
Even in the slumber of repose.
Here lies a great man of great stature;
Here lies a great father, son and brother.
No need for sutras or gospels;
No want for tears or prayers.
His own virtue would guide himself
through the afterlife.

They said, in prostrated vigil:
Oh your virtuous spirit would return
to the earthly realm on the third day.
A final visit befitting of a lamp and
a white cloth plastered on the graffiti
to guide you to your former home:
therein a bed of ash scattered to reveal
where your spirit would traverse.

But all thousands of specks of ash,
like dust in the sky and droplets on a sink,
remain untouched, unanswered.

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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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Chasing the lasting silence

These are the lights that are a ceaseless blaze
Of an undying night soaked to its negroid skin
With an ontological fear of the finality;
That which imposes itself like a sagging fruit
Of a bloated ovary on a half-dead blossom.

These are toothaches of a nagging gut
Rotting like a melted angsana tree branch
In sacrosanct prostration on the golden-lit road;
Discharging at will the deadened anxieties
And tightened throats of a hungry forsaken night.

Those are the screams,
Empty and unheard.
Smeared like heathen graffiti,
On a haemorrhaging train ride.
Whence I am adrift? Wherefore am I adrift?

These the mud, dirt and rain in a rabid fornication
Of a lingering vulgarity like a flitting mynah
That squawks unctuously in the timid headlights;
So sickly like the mucus besmirched on the walls
Where only the old and lost dare to lean.

These the writhing worms on an iron pike
That line the streets of passing karung-guni men
And vacated reverence for a decomposed ideal;
Impaled with which on a dried carcass of emotion
Long asphyxiated by the cold of nicotine.

 

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6.32pm

They said he has since left the earthly world
past the gates of hell since the last hours of
the month of the hungry, the wandering,
the rootless, the restless, the haunted.

He has gone with the multi-coloured men
on trucks, their voices in loudhailers,
echoing through the block after block
of grey, faceless flats, resounding
in the licensed pitches of grass
trampled by zealous bare feet.

But he lingers:
He is the pervasive blanket of a fog,
so voiceless, so relentless.
He is an oppressive presence, thick
at 400 PSI, surging into the empty void
that is our void decks and our void hearts.
He is the grey that encroaches
and then engulfs, without warning
nor without a modicum of apology.
He is the heaviness that permeates
the light barren atmosphere of our souls.

I see pedestrians in the bedraggled
streets amidst the sepia headlights
of melancholic cries that drown
in a ghost of distant rain,
amidst the last wafts of incinerated joss
that curls into an unending dream
to the last of the white clouds in the sky,
unseen, unheard, unloved.

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Exit Through The Soul

It’s like you boarded a ship
that took you out of this universe.
You exist, but only in waves –
waves of data in the sky and in the shit of birds.
You are a residue of a decayed memory,
now ash and fog.

If I no longer feel you,
no longer sense you,
and never will again,
but see only indications of your being
in passing clouds and falling rain,
in pained dreams and cold nights,
do you really exist any longer?

Have I really known you?
Have I really been your friend?
Or is the passed moments of a unity of souls
all but a transient passage of mud and rain
into the abyssal non-existence of the gutters?

I think I’ve lost you.
Perhaps I never even met you.
Perhaps you don’t actually even exist.

DSC02697

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