Our issues melt away and run, like dirty water into drainage pipes. Black fishes into estuaries. When we are out of each other’s sight, we’ll be out of our minds. Flushed away and forgotten. Invariably some scum stays: stains on a manhole. Is it disgusting? For me to wish thusly: I want to know everything. What are you doing right now? I wonder as I type these words, whether an old poem would remind you of me. Or maybe, an old Weezer track. A putrid display of cliche. Whether some strange, blackened memory comes rushing back out of the depths of the sewer we consigned ourselves to. Something no-one wants to see nor clean. Things – and people – we’d rather let rot somewhere else. So let me say it again, I wish to know everything. As if repeating it makes it any cleaner. I am scrubbing my mouth with this repetition. No matter how disgusting it may be – I want to know where each river ends, where every one runs dry. I want to feel this world: every festering wound, black-mold enclave, drip of a shedding. Every single shoddy half-written metaphor. I want to see you, behind your squeaky-clean 5-stars public-toilet facade. And I want somebody to tell me – that everything which was filthy was fine, everything which was wrong was right – that everything which was not, will be. Truth be told, I’d love it to be you, but I know. I already know the answer. My mind has no qualms with being in the gutter, as ever always.
After ‘Mud man’ by Chikako Yamashiro
the word spread across the town like
rain. we lie, waiting to be exposed
to wisdom from the heavens. we let
the word blot us out, cake us in dirt;
your hands, blooming from the earth
like mangroves. we are tethered here,
grasping at raindrop, leak, and tear.
somewhere behind one of those clouds
god is watching his children, laying
themselves out like clothes to dry.
I start off every poem by changing
the font to Hoefler. Makes me feel
a bit more … dignified …
as though I have earned my right to say
dear world I am a confessional poet
when I never really do fess up
and do I really write any poetry
and this too is another attempt.
I want you to imagine the ellipses
as pauses in my typing. Maybe
you could picture this:
I’m … cracking a knuckle …
or two… staring out the window.
Which knuckle is up to you.
Which window too …
Got it? Great. Video by text.
I wanted to tell you that I love you.
Wasn’t any big secret really.
Let’s just say … I would
let you decide
what paint we’d use …
or which leg to cut first if I were caught in a bear trap.
at the height of my fever
I imagined you down at the pound
picking out a stray mutt
and robbing me of part of my affection…
And in another breath I want to tell you I don’t.
Maybe this is the world’s ugliest dog.
Maybe you cut both legs and I die of blood loss.
Maybe this is desperation
pulling … me by the … wrist
like I’m a dart. Is this love?
Most of my life I imagined it
as the inertia of fucking
spilling over into society
because it sure never happened to me now did it homeboy
and maybe it’s a feedback loop
of negative energy … and I’m wrestling
myself in a cage match … I’m working
myself into a chokehold …
… if I were to see you tomorrow
I would have no idea what to say.
my tongue trips over teeth,
mashes vowels into consonant,
meaning trite and bright yellow
like a hazard sign. it struggles
to ease past past posts, a fat
cumbersome man stuck in his
own doorway. my tongue is the
elephant, stuck in a room made
of ivory, yellowed and polished,
scared to make a single sound.
unable to make a single move.
Every time it happened you told me
that it was alright. That this is how
the two of you clicked, like gears in
some semiconductor. And every time
I would think to myself of harmless bickering,
like couples did in the dramas you watched.
I found it funny once, as though the more
you fought the more you loved one another.
And I believed it. I really did. I took pride
in my loudness. I saw it as proof that I was
a child of these two irreplaceable souls.
I bore it as a badge of honor. Like the
families in old Old Maid decks. And when
you fought I would just wait it out like
it’s not a fucking big deal, like every
family in every house does this all
the time. I really came to see it as love.
How can you scold someone if you don’t
love them, you would tell me. I really trusted you.
Yet today you fought again. Over
some completely, inconsequential, shit.
Some nonsense about a mattress, or
is it some garbage about a car? Who
even knows. Not like you remember
why you fight or what you fought over.
So now Mum’s locked herself in and you
lie on the sofa the face of a dejected man.
I am ashamed to be alive yet I say nothing.
What can I say? I can’t come over and scold you
for losing your tempers. I can’t say anything
because you told me never to talk back to you.
You tell me to talk to you but you guys don’t listen.
The last time I was so anxious I couldn’t breathe,
so depressed I just lay there staring at the ceiling,
you told me to stop acting crazy and start acting
my age. And now I am that way, always an actor.
One lie begets another.
Well now I must point the question back at you.
You all have betrayed me. You have lied to me.
This is not the family I was shown growing
up. This is not a family. This is but a mash
of people who are related by blood but nothing
more, nothing at all. The children of two broken
families will surely make another. I remember
you told me how lucky I was that my family was
not like yours. And I held onto that, like flotsam
in the wake of a crash. But it, too, sinks. When I
look at others, I wonder, are our lives really that similar?
I ask myself.
Is this really alright?
Is it really alright?
Is it really alright?
I remember that time your fist landed next to my face,
my back to the storeroom door, back in our old HDB flat.
Now I can no longer tell if you missed me because you
had some restraint, or none at all.
I have opened my eyes.
I have learnt. This is not normal. You
are not alright. I taught myself to be
like you and now I must unlearn it all:
what I understood to be okay,
what I once held to be true,
what I mistook for passion,
what I thought was love.