Photo by Joshua Jordan on Unsplash

It’s not as much a tussle as much as 
it is a boxing match; the dodging 
and weaving like swerving into traffic.
The reason people must inevitably bury
themselves is the same as why full stops
must be full.  You know the steps by heart:
here is an empty space to be filled. Here
is a name erased. Here is another lie 
for you to be placed in. Graves, too, 
must be full. You are boxing yourself
into a coffin. Your heart is full of mud.
Here is an empty filling to be spaced out,
crossed out, placed outside of the boxes
and the self. Here is a list of instructions
for the heart to erase. Here is the box that
got the trafficker hung, here is the weave 
of an executioner’s mask, the judge’s wig, 
here is the tussle you will bind yourself in,
the bullet you will learn to dodge.

Inspired by real life conversations. I’m back on my bullshit of trying to bang out drafts in a single 10 minute sitting. Old title: “Springboard”


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.

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

Photo by Ron McClenny on Unsplash

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

woman lighting up her tongue

Photo by Max Langelott on Unsplash

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.