Han

Tag: Singapore

Tanjong Katong and Upper East Coast

I feel so stockpiled with nostalgia driving through alien roads and witnessing architecture that is off the beaten track in Tanjong Katong and Upper East Coast. A peaceful heart enlarged. Old money goes off aptly, fermenting the air with a royally quiet satisfaction. The people here appear to be slightly different; there are a considerable few with weirdly foreign countenances, so to speak. Peculiar dressings present comfort.

The houses are silent, without pervading terror; roads large and wide, yet not fully. I have always been consumed by an inextinguishable wanderlust hitherto yet am feeling simultaneously unjustified. Simply because I am leaving areas here untouched without sentiment, without memory. I want to stroll in these quaint perimeters anon, filling myself with new notions to write about, making fleeting interactions nothing but golden. 

I find myself

I:
I find myself reading your writings ever and anon, as if I am attempting to find relation, association, understanding and answers to what I feel about writing as a whole; perhaps answers to the most enigmatic and rueful questions.

II:
I find myself marring my books with writings in lead – I like preserving writing in its most traditional form, the soft sounds of pencilled writing. I write, ad nauseum.

III:
I find myself chancing upon those annotations of chicken scratches and marvel at the seeming importance of the syntax or metonymy I noticed. Something unusually painful or distinctly admirable once spoke to me in a way most compelling. Regrettably, its appeal now lost; an obliteration of sorts. I struggle to find new meanings, new purposes in the writing and to excavate every detail – from meter to the beginning letters of words, most innately as if these habits were duties to be done when reading. To reestablish the reveries of literay theories by Leavis; to be duly pensive because everything else is going on in a din, and reading seems to be the most salient sanity of all options. When all is seemingly accomplished, I write even more at the back of the book where blank pages usually lie — for ruminations that become alive in the mind! for ideas that are patented by transcription and not by anything else! for diction that I can learn and adopt in a way most fulfilling.

I wish I knew how to write when I was 12 so that I can remember those American memories yesteryear. I now only remember amber lights reduced to a stygian alley when walking alone, of the rosti that was too huge, of natives thinking I was from China because I was Asian.

IV:
I find myself watching English period dramas of qualities akin to casette tapes rather than indulging in Akutagawa’s first few pieces of gold. How absolutely fashionable both women and men were in the past, using language in a way most respectable with form. How characters spoke in such admirable eloquence!

There is but too much going on in the mind: of books and literary theories that are greatly enchanting, of characters in films I find wholly related to. Their disposition and everything else! Yes, John Davinier is charasmatic. But I desire like him not, for what good lies ahead of a man who is quixotic, and has luck brush him mere?

A confession to dear friends

I fall to poetry when I have a copious amount of emotion, because prosaic writing doesn’t seem to give rhythm and proper closure to everything – it makes everything seem deathless. I dislike using full stops and prefer using commas, more of it, the better; sometimes, I’d use dashes – to further elaborate on an emotion worth giving details and personality to. On and on!

But today, prosaic writing seems to be adequate, most unusually. The wind is passionately patient tonight and I feel immensely grateful for friendships and for the great people whom have stayed despite my busy schedule and other commitments. The sporadic replies too are sickening, I am aware. Yet I am thankful for people who want to keep me in their lives, for people who don’t mind listening to my grave considerations about marriage and romantic relationships, about my seeming misanthropic predilection, about my innate indecisiveness about what to have for lunch, et cetera, et cetera.

I want to let all of you know that prioritisation and preference were never born in my establishment; that love for all is truly equal and wholly passionate; that each of you are distinctly different and greatly consequential to my life where growth and company are concerned.

The year is ending and there is no better time than now to have this dedicated to my dearest of friends whom I have seemingly shunned when I am queasy or otherwise. I treasure each and every soul: for every song you share, every problem you encounter, every loss you experience, every gain you revel in.

Today, more significantly than any other, I am so thankful for having an affinity with words. To be able to translate emotions to pure words unmarred and with most pleasure.

This is to all of you, who stayed and were there from the very beginning.

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.”

People and gaits

I adore watching people move. A proclivity to register their particular gait; eyes that could be both with spirit and oblivion; the seemingly uncultured hairstyles of both men and women; how people in love are most pristine and beautiful.

Oh you can decipher someone’s history from his gait, you can derive the disposition of someone due to his style and mien.

I want to watch people, but I don’t want them to realise. I want to write stories about them, link the people of my society together by this great circumlocution of words.

I love writing for people, and about them.

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.

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