Han

Category: Poetry

I dreamt of war

I dreamt of war, and of PM Lee
there he stood, mien of equanimity
handed me a gun and told me to defend
oh what war are we talking about after 50 years of peace!

there were people who had homes
of crumbling doors and straw roofs and insufferable air;
partially decomposed bodies and
of sanguine faces

everything was deafeningly silent
why stand here in this dreadful hour!

“Singapore disappointed TPP is unlikely to be passed…”
were the headlines of today
as blinding contrasts to
the stunning glories of Schooling, Hartono and our Paralympians

I (we) watch
as the
world spins
yarns of
disunity
hungry for radical change
as if education has done nothing but
developed us in independent thought
breeding individualism –
and the world now seems to progress towards a hodgepodge of hollers and protests

the scandal of Park and Choi
the insolence of Duterte’s remarks on Obama
the unprecedented victory of Trump’s presidency; his imminent repudiation of the TPP that will beget
grave political and economical ramifications; his idealistic protectionistic measures; his lewd remarks about women…
oh what now, what else!

the world is now in thorn and din
a garden of oxidised rotten cores

but I’ll say it plain:
many have died for today
in hopes of flowering faces
and singing children

let the voices of deceased poets
ring louder in our ears

Chancellor Merkel’s words are not for Germany and America alone,
it is for us all:
“[may people of the world be connected] by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.”

Of rivers and time

the ginger tea inflames the throat
if not swallowed delicately
my hands of cat-stained-fur touch the desk
I think I left a memory

that night
we heaved breaths of fire
we perambulated what shaped us,
we revived memories passing bronze leaves and grand sights
“I remember the staircase being really huge and now it looks so small!”
“Did we have a running track?” “Not that I can remember.”
we walked down memory lane, literally
of sheltered basketball courts and bigger fields and bigger classrooms maybe
yet what stayed were the designs of our canteen —
their signboards remained iconic
we laughed, so very sweetly

before nightfall,
we snailed our way through Botanic Gardens,
of rabbit-in-the-hole terrapins and monitor lizards in manbuilt stones
all was peaceful; all was well
there and then,
you told me
you preferred doing things
in solitude
and said my mind had changed
through the words we exchanged
you too told me people studied music for two:
one, to compose a piece if they did feel blue
or to play a song or two, of their loved crew

do you remember Yiruma and River flows in you; the jargons our clique came up with so very creatively, we could all be linguists and comedians hybridised; we could be a new species!

7 years happened
philosophies changed and changing, priorities stacking, troubles burgeoning
what abounds!
you changed but are the same
your melancholic disposition was fainter and now faint
I think we all grew
grew out of the husk and cocoon

now,
we’re at the river delta, only 19
things yet to be felt most dangerously
with grave intensity
we never know where we’ll be
we’re at the river delta, only 19

oh dear friend,
you’ve read my writings all along
and I never knew
but I hope that some day,
I’d get to hear your music too

Of disappearing coffee shops and identity

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

photo by me

I don’t know what Kopi-O means nor coffee’s manifold definitions (in Singapore context, that is)
My grandmother speaks Teochew — a dialect facing a fading relevance
her grandson howbeit lacks the ability to speak it authentically

in the interview they asked me how the Singaporean identity can be established
through Literature

we are young
but we are halfway through murdering a revered generation of Singaporeanness

we don’t know when Tomb-sweeping day is, but they do
what exactly Moon Cake Festival symbolises, but they do
we let go of things we don’t find relevant

my children will never speak Teochew or Hokkien because I don’t
mayhap they’ll ask me what Hokkien is if they were to consume Hokkien Mee
alack then, we’d be part of a generation of disappeared coffee shops and pungent medicated oil

notice their silent cries, the battle against modernism — crushing coke under their strong feet
there’ll be old women collecting scraps of cardboard no more
Fa Gao, Iced Gem Biscuits, Haw Flakes, Wheel Crackers, Pola Snack, Wang Zai biscuits, cheap mint sweets wrapped in translucent crimson wrappers would be here no more

I am, part of a generation that obliterates a revered generation of Singaporeanness;
the edge of a knife that slices the skin, gladly embracing — not blood but — a demonised modernisation

we are young
we are in search of our identity
we asked for it in SG50 and we’ll still do the same when SG100 comes
we’re attempting to find a set of ideals that characterises us as idiosyncratically Singaporeans
Singlish! Singlish! Singlish! they repeat instinctively
but in school, we condemn it
in Kinokuniya however, it seems to me that poetry peppered with Singlish is glorified
(tell me you’re not caught in betwixt clarity and utter mess)
is Singlish then peculiar to Singaporeans?

we are young
all we have are a few rare riots and a broken vernacular we think of as wholly Singaporean

there is no history —
as opposed to the Middle Ages and Romantic Period
no nothing we can feel gravely about
no nothing we can have our heartstrings move violently with fervency and interest

between progression and stagnation, we logically chose the former
we must let go

and so we’re back at the big question:
“What makes us Singaporean?”

we are young

“a novelist is not obliged to write directly about contemporary history, but a novelist who simply disregards the major public events of the moment is generally either a footler or a plain idiot.”

To Orwell: This is to Singapore and to you. Thank you for inspiring this poem — with your essay: “Inside the Whale” — written with profound impetus. Hopefully a new breed of Singaporeans would be discovered, whose language and characteristics would be utilitarian enough to be a hallmark of our identity, worth remembering through Literature.

Dream

they told me my dream was lofty
in Singapore society
I conceded
(I was aware, am aware, fully aware)
unwillingly admitted its grandeur…

the social change it could possibly engender —
is not only left to be marvelled at

uproot a forest a tree at a time
creatures die, people perish
to be resolute, work hard and await
the daisy that’ll eventually
sprout from death

August

it’s August
a week into August
I used to remember dates rather cleverly
writing them down daily instinctively
like an accountant immune to figures

4 more months to the end of the year
4 months ago I enlisted

weeks before my impending military stint
I wrote copiously —
an army of apprehension overkill,
of terrible dreams

4 months after,
I discovered faces I never thought I had
and balanced between brains and brawn

is this growth
or is this a hardening of the heart?

today’s Singapore’s birthday
she has her progress charted
by analysts, economists and government officials
PM Lee’s National Day Message revolved largely
about our society —
in light of terrorism

highlighted its vulnerability

hopefully
after the foiled threat on Marina Bay Sands
we’d be wary, yet inclusive
we’d be kind, and compassionate
we’d be protected, but free

(written on 09082016)

Under yellow lights

under yellow lights
we blitzed to find distinct categories of love
filtrated amorousness from romanticism
marked out people who were psychotic
and unknowingly drowned the cold hall
in a ghastly apprehension

we then see that
in a grand scheme of things
terrorism and overt nuclear threats
are atomised concerns

saw that
ostracisation was never a deliberate attempt
but a biological perennial proclivity
to purge and better evolution

but we are perhaps
nothing close to having the world as our oyster
nor the sky as our limit

we are finite in desire, in potential and in discovery

under yellow lights
we will never know who we are
and oftentimes
profound analyses reveal haunting and dark visions

for we see not humans, but creatures akin to cancer cells
for we see not a sacred ceremony, but a justified exploration of self
for we see not faith, but a notion that purely advocates homogenity

19, and 19 only

was I at war both with myself and it all
sun and ocean blue
no place to call my home
their magnificence, it don’t make sense to you

to the nights we conquered
as lost souls of our society
with us we had Lana and Panes,
philosophy and Literature,
ambrosial quiches and sweet coffee,
unfounded laughter,
all in depressed drunkards

with every hour
we learn through time —
each suffering’s traded for a blessing
each person’ll teach us a lil’ something

we pull through the night
not because of insomnia but because
sleeping quickens the pace of time
thus we attempt to put it to better use,
somewhere mortal, somewhere breathing

so write,
write about our Singaporean society with a critical eye, but with grace
write about our changing proclivities
write about apprehension for the future
write about transient friendships
write about the sacred ceremony
write about college life

do go back to violins and pianos
don’t relegate talent
to rusty strings

death is anon
so celebrate in dark nights and sing at dawn
do what you do best, boldly

to you, friend
with deep love and illimitable gratitude

%d bloggers like this: