this poem is not about you, but that’s up to you

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.

Anyway …
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 is clumsy and utterly reprehensible

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.

5PM, 261116, Before A Family Dinner

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.

poem of the self after workshop

a subject lost in beard
of old white men. boy
bastards, us three.
three accidents.
don’t you get it? I want
to be unknowable as a truth.
lose the leashed thread.
here is a map. walk it;
I blank the names,
distance distance.

As You Roamed The Earth, You Felt The Drying Skin of Age Itself

it is the waking that is the hardest.
the first step in sleep deprivation:
you learn you miss dreaming
of holes, the spaces between lines,

the gap between the train and platform.
you dream of ways in which to die,
how the train brushes against your feet,
the space just big enough for your thigh.

there are other gaps you remember:
misspelled gpas, an empty desk
in class. visions of your friends,
long gone and passed, moss-grown,
flowers atop: a forlorn crown.
their faces eating the light.

in chasing the gap you lose yourself
in the coming and going, in finding
the joy of godless verse, the sound
when you spread her legs, or some
other sex line that marks you adult,
because penetration is the space
between childhood and modernity,
the answer to your wet dreams.

you tell that to your mother, spit
in her mouth, regurgitate the soap.
still dripping from last night, your
eyes clouded with the ocean.
before you leave, look in her eyes.
they are the ending credits of a film.
they are the same sea, the same salt.
you, the end of pages in a book.
you, the closed off dog-ear.

because you never hear of
hungry children, you
eat yourself whole, give in
to desire, the single moment
when your teeth eat into your lips
when your mouth burrows into your tongue.

this dream that eats away at your tail.

all this, to uncover
the space which your voice hides in:
the gap behind the kitchen cabinet.
that unknown place it goes
when you can’t find it, unwilling
to be coaxed out, like the last drop of wine
like a petulant child, forever, forever.

A POEM CELEBRATING SOME THINGS THAT DON’T WORK

Acrostics. Academia. Balancing work, life and a healthy sleep schedule. Breaking up in your head with people you don’t even go out with. Confessing to your first love at the wrong place and time. Denial when you don’t mean it. Even if you do mean it, does that really work? English as second tongue. Editing. First strikes when you don’t have the time to think them through. Fuck as a vulgarity, not a noun. Falling into love at first sight – how cliché. Generosity just because people ask. Honesty when no-one does. I as a singular noun. I as a concept. Just joking, fake philosophy and pseudo-spiritualism. Jamming words together to sieve out poetry. Kafkaesque as a word. Keto. Listing out words and calling it poetry. Laying out scenes and calling it love. Lying about the writing process. Love as an independent variable. Misreading the Tao Te Ching as Dao De Jing. Making an audience hum while sober. Memory loss. Monkdom. Never making the first move. Or just being content with letting things slip. Or just being content with repeating yourself. Orientialism as a concept in the 21st century. Pretending to be woke when you’re still asleep. Puns that no-one appreciates. Puns disguised as poetry. Quokkas. Quips about things no-one cares about. Quantum theory. Running to lose weight. Rote memorisation. Rhymes that don’t rhyme. Lines that ruin your form. Short-term memory loss. Slaying your daddy unironically. Slaying as a concept at all. To be honest about things that you’ve never thought about. Thinking about things that you’ve never thought about. Thinking about people 24/7 that you’ve just met. Thinking. Underestimating when love can strike. Overestimating when it does. Forgetting to keep to form again. Uniqueness as a selling point. ‘Valen’-themed lines because really, how many times do those work? Writing poems to people who will not read them. X starting any word other than xenagogue. You spilling your personal life into groups of 5000 strangers, give or take. Zen Buddhism, but as an aesthetic. Zealotry, but only for self-destruction. Endings without satisfactory closure

spwm day 16