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.

#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.

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

IN THIS STORY, YOU SAYING HOW YOU FEEL “ALL RIGHT” IS NOT A CAUSE FOR CONCERN

In this dream, you shed your skin
and cast away your leather wings;
from your pockets, spill these things –
antiplatelet medicines,

Clopidogrel, Aspirin.
Warfarin, for battles within.
In another, I hold your chin
and nothing else. Come, unspin

this long dream of safety pins
and other stories, wherein
the might of the might-have-been
becomes the force that underpins

the breath of your life worn thin.
In my dream: we swap our skins
you and I, identical twins,
draped in the light of Kuan Yin,

lost in the mist of has-beens
and has-nots, the lines blurring
like your life – now, a tailspin.
I memorise your next-of-kin,

my final act of discipline.
In this dream, we both begin
realizing: that being
alive’s the holiest sin –

prisoners, of human skin.

Spwm day 14

13 Superstitions for a Damsel in Distress

On the backstreet home, watch out for black
cats stalking your footsteps. Don’t step in
puddles with your high-heeled horseshoes:
the clack draws all sorts of bad folk. Knock
on wooden doors along the way – let them
know you are there, once, or twice:
unexpected deaths come in threes.
Ring every bell – let chimes cover you,
light the path home, keep watch.
Needless to say, avoid the ladders.
They take you nowhere useful enough,
except upwards. Pennies on roads
are only shiny traps – they are not worth it.
Likewise, check both ways when you cross
your fingers, or your reflection in street
windows. Shatter them if necessary.
Take a photo if you must, to save your soul.
Let the itch of your palm be a prayer that you’re home.
Salt the door. Let relief open like an umbrella.

spwm day 13

From Z to A, A Lovebound Zoetrope Trips In Her First Pair of Dancing Shoes

jazz, booze, brazen pizzazz, zouks daze, putz rezones
contemporary votary youth. yell, yes, yourself yearns
inexpert, co-existing, bemixed jukebox. next, proxy
‘howdy’ – who, which fellow, why? walleyed, worship
quivers: reserve leaves, salvation arrives volubly,
requests. puzzled, you jumble, quake, jumped-gun.
mother, tortoised beneath table, watches daughter’s social,
reminisces pregnancies. warns – his compass veers
otherwise. overprotective, mother stereotypes:
quiff-wearing queer, queasy antiquation, quite passe.
palpably, pulse presses pata-pata, peekaboos
into down-linen intercourse, lip-top soon drowsed – or
not. never. necking? non-zero chance – nonetheless
mother’s wisdom must remain germane. men times
love equals feelings leaking, trickle following slit. lies:
look. seek quickened love-struck awkward skin-on-skin
jam. conjugate. join. enjoy – rejoice, jambe-de-air.
in totality, girl finds rapidity, spins in pirouette,
that, huzzah, her who-knows-which left-behind
girlhood goes exploring, willingly digs aground
feeling, finally finds freedom from family.
ena – tie her, leave her behind.
deny mothermade denigrations:
cha-cha, cowboy, compass. come,
be bound. bare brazen breast. but
absolve all fear. fall – learn affection. dance.


spwm day 11
every word in each line shares a common letter.