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.

#copout

alternate forms: Cop-out, 虎头蛇尾
noun
copout (plural “copouts”)

Definitions

  1. (Literal) A situation whereby police officers have either been prevented from doing their job properly under any circumstances. These may include anarchy or cowardice.
  2. (Idiomatic) A term used to describe poems written with extremely high effort and thought but disguised as low-effort so as to suit the Asian Values of humbleness, honesty, and horseshit.
  3. (Idiomatic) To avoid performing something at all or to a requisite standard, for instance, writing shitposts to fulfill all 30 days of SingPoWriMo. Alternatively, to go back on one’s commitments. See definition 1. Also an adjective. (“a copout poem”)
  4. (Idiomatic) Any excuse used to avoid performing said tasks or duty. See Chao Keng. Examples may include stress over finals, stress over the finality of life, et al. Also a verb (“to copout”)
  5. (Idiomatic) A person who cops out. (“what a copout”)
  6. (Colloquial) A common mispronunciation of kapoot.

Examples of common usage:

My heart is the beating of a thousand schoolchildren. My heart is a hostage situation, and I am both inside and outside the school, both the gunman and the cop. I am the tracking lines of the bullets in the rifles and in the pistols and the half-scribbled chalk on boards. Or maybe I am not. Who is to say that I feel anything at all? Who am I to say that my heart is any more traumatic. I must be honest with you and say that I don’t know whether what I’m writing is true. For all you know it could all have been horseshit. I need someone to teach me how to feel, lay out definitions and guidelines and terms and conditions so I can line it all out within the classroom of my chest, my heart a fevered student. I avoided seeing the truth for the longest time, pacing about in the halls of this hallowed institution, the petrichor-ridors of my chest, waiting for people to turn up to class. But I have been relying on other people’s answers for too long. It becomes evident that I must toss out all these extra staffs. Fire the janitor of self-depreciation. He has done nothing but to spread the rot. Get rid of the security guards, the campus cops who do nothing. They did nothing when the trigger ran up and down the halls like the world’s most exciting playground. Send the nurse to medical school. She’s written up excuses for me long enough, and the stress is boiling over into viciousness. Me, I don’t keep to form. Can’t. Throw away my faux pas rosary. Don’t let all of this become kapoot.

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.