To Mimic The Behaviour Of The Blissful

The same-old, age-old, all-too-familiar facial movement: it’s like wearing a pair of old jeans. Same same but different. Likewise, the smile’s stretched out, stretched out to reach the ends of the world, and the teeth are bared- an impromptu dentist inspection, files of recruits falling in, trying to stay still, stay tidy, et cetera et cetera – with the eyebrows raised, ready to strike. A naturally man-made phenomenon. If the situation calls for it, you should appear happy; if you detect the same-old suspicions of joy, ditto: monkey see monkey do. Be their mirror, just as they were to you; they smile, you smile, because we are all happy, joyful, exuberant, altogether now. Yet, the creases in your forehead betray you: layer onto layer onto layer – Son, are you bothered by anything, Son, did anything happen , Son, you could practice smiling more, Son – parataxis, questions like quack doctors clamouring to save the sick, to revive the dead, to console the cheerless.  They pile up in the corner of my lips. I can feel them, pressing onto my cheeks, both from the inside and the outside; much like that time when you knew you were happy, but you didn’t show it, not by nurture but by nature; yet you caught yourself smiling when no-one was around to see it. Back then, you knew that smile was beautiful, even without looking at it.


I have a problem with smiling.

I’m very conscious of my teeth. They’re very crooked. Some in some out, some big some small. I didn’t brush my teeth enough when I was young. I was also often told that I didn’t smile a lot, or I always appeared moody: so I believed that this was the reason. But I could still smile with my mouth closed, so it wasn’t the cause – I soon realised that this disconnect existed for me, between emotion and action, feeling and behaviour: I could be happy but still appear the same, to be in the default state, the ‘stoneface’…my family won the lottery with my A-Levels certificate a few days ago. My mother was ecstatic, telling me how lucky she was to have bought 4D that day with the certificate I finally got back from my friends a few months after it was released. Who has the time to visit  old HCJC in the middle of sunny Singapore when you’re spending every bloody day in the mosquito-infested jungles of Mandai and Joo Koon? I digress, but she hugged me and I could see just how joyful she was, her smile was from ear to ear, and I suppose I was happy too, because honestly I am, I was, I swear, but then I caught a glimpse of my face in the display cabinet door, and I soon saw the ridiculousness of it all – a mother smiling, joyful, embracing the son, standing there limply as though in the wake of a car accident. 

will probably revisit this sometime, had difficulty ending it….I’ve made about 4 revisions now. I also wrote about this subject back when  I was way, way, way angstier. 

Anyway taiwan comes next week. the jungle awaits me…

Filed under: Poetry


A member of Singapore-based writing collective /stop@BadEndRhymes ("/s@ber"), Valen dwells in the swamp of poetry. He has been published in various publications, including Anxious Poets Society, Eunoia Review and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He has performed his work at the Arts House, the Singapore Art Museum, and in various dingy bars.

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