on the elevator she steps aside,
lets others into the gantries first.
she hasn’t seen a mirror in years:
in the dark, she feels about
her shape, is satisfied with being.
what was her name?
she knew it was a saint’s.
it just had to be.
in the dark she swallows
even without being asked.
she’s used to it –
the familiar samsara
of hiding and regurgitating
clicks in her hands like a rosary.
extinct, creatures re-emerge
from her bosom. she’d lay
eggs if she needed to,
let these children
burrow into her flesh.
everyone needs some hope,
she scribbles on her arm.
how many times? she sleeps
under a shroud of ink.
last week she ordained
the marriage of adam and eve.
tomorrow she’ll turn into
because deep down inside
she craves to be
her second coming.
a bead snaps underfoot.
her mouth is ever shut:
beneath the veneer
of pavement teeth,
a long tongue
never letting up,
never letting go.
Once, you asked me
what I would want for myself;
I answered as you would have wanted,
i.e. mark of a man, a six-pack, job
that pays good money etc. 5Cs
and COE, a happy family. Another
time you asked me ridiculous koans:
what is the sound of two butts farting. If
a NSman shits in camo does anyone see it.
Infantile and tasteless, but very you.
You probably don’t remember that.
But I do, more than I should – I do
remember the days when you would
curse at late hours of the night, asking
to quit. Asking yourself was it right to
have picked up this job in one hand and
these burdens in another – sickened
uncles, greedy half-siblings, the beer gut.
Bosses. Weight gain and hair loss.
These are things you came to love,
despite your reluctance. Nights alone
at the bar, then sleeping in on Saturdays.
Kopi O. Coffee Black – like kopi but whiter.
Paternal pragmatism. Marvel movie marathons
at 4 in the morning. You would have been 50 that
night. So many questions you have not asked and I
have not answered. Will they mix your ashes in the
martini at Clarke Quay? Or Ann Siang Hill?
Or should I honour your life with Guinness
Gao Black Dog Graveyard sipped through a straw?
Should I buy the lots next to Mum’s en bloc
or should I merge the two a la corporate downsizing?
Does the company know? Will they replace you?
Should I arrange for prayers? Do you even
want prayers? How many half brothers do you
want to show up, their hands pawing over your chest
as though to find their missing sorrow?
Do you know that I have forgiven you?
Do I need to show it? Do you remember?
Have you ever forgiven yourself?
When I think of you, mysterious man,
surely, the answer, in truly your style,
is the same: “no, no, no –
it is enough.”
Prompt for SPWM Day 4. Answering prompts from Day 1 – 4 at once.
pause for thought – one mistake begets another. A treatise
on compulsive lying: how one wears long sleeves even in
summer, how one nods along to the rhythmic ritual of “yes,
I am fine.” No. Break the glass – this is not just an emergency
this is real life. Real in the sense that there are no take-backs. No
individual feedback sessions where God sits you down and tells you
“Valen, you’ve done well; just well enough.” Not where he says
“everything will be fine, but you must suffer now, or it will all be for
naught.” And I know this now. Yes, I want to be better. Yes, I know:
everything that will be, will be. That time with the rusty penknife
gets played over and over in my head like a film reel, static
and emotionless feedback looping on a blank TV stuck on CH8.
Treatise Two: I know – I must be better. I am better. I am no longer who
I was that day. I want to sit down next to naked me of yesteryear and say
“Valen, you’ve done well enough. But you must do better.” I know now –
everyone suffers, but not everyone has to die. And certainly, not me, not yet.
First, patience. Second, patience –
but to a reasonable degree. Patience,
such that I may wait, without an inkling
of what you were thinking. Maybe
take a few centimetres off me, so
the distance between us can shrink,
by that inch which seems like a mile.
Perhaps, fingers just a centimeter
shorter, so that our palms could
match – 2 significant figures.
Lastly, a heart that is small,
so I may let nobody else in,
not even by a hair’s breadth.