Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Getting Out

That year we hardly slept, walking like inmates
who beat the walls. Every night
another refusal, the silent work
of tightening the heart.
Exhausted, we gave up; escaped
to the apartment pool, swimming those laps
until the first light relieved us.

Days were different: FM and full-blast
blues, hours of guitar "you gonna miss me
when I'm gone." Think how you tried
to pack up and go, for weeks stumbling
over piles of clothing, the unstrung tennis rackets.
Finally locked into blame, we paced
that short hall, heaving words like furniture.

I have the last unshredded pictures
of our matching eyes and hair. We've kept
to separate sides of the map,
still I'm startled by men who look like you.
And in the yearly letter, you're sure to say
you're happy now. Yet I think of the lawyer's bewilderment
when we cried, the last day. Taking hands
we walked apart, until our arms stretched
between us. We held on tight, and let go.

By Cleopatra Mathis


Written on 20 November 2005, Sunday

Today is my 33rd birthday and our 8th Wedding Anniversary (Registry of Marriages). Nothing much, no birthday cake, no exchanging of gifts, just a simple meal in a Thai restaurant near our house.

On this day 8 years ago we decided to get married. Legally, we became husband and wife. However we waited for another 4 years to hold our Chinese custom wedding. We've been together for more than 12 years. When I first met her it was in July 1993. That was such a long time ago.

We were pen-pals, our 1st date was a blind date, it was love at first sight, and she was only 18 years old and I was 20.

Unfortunately we are from two different worlds; we have different goals in life, different beliefs, different characters, different hobbies, basically we have nothing in common. But for some reasons we are comfortable with each other, but maybe too comfortable. The fire that sustains our love flickers in the storm threatening to extinguish itself.

Our marriage is in a mess. We quarrel so often that we’ve lost count. “Divorce” is a word commonly used during our quarrels. We even calmly discussed our future after the divorce, for example what we are going to do next, will we remarried, should we continue to be friends, etc. But each time just as we were about to give up, something holds us back - a touch, an apology, a kiss on the forehead, a hug, and we decided to give each other another chance.

And also for some weird reasons whenever it is close to some important dates in our lives, we start quarreling. Maybe during these periods we tend to have higher expectations of each other. It is like a curse. The last time we quarreled was on my 33rd birthday and our 8th Wedding Anniversary, 20 November 2005. Yes today. This time our marriage narrowly escaped death. It was too close, really too close.

Somehow we managed to reconcile again, but next time we might not be so lucky.

But for now, Happy Wedding Anniversary my Dear.

P.S. Did anyone of you watch The Mexican starring Brad Pitt & Julia Roberts? Their characters in the movie, well to certain extent echo our situation, especially that part when Samantha asks Jerry, “If two people love each other but they just can’t seems to get it together. When do you get to that point of enough is enough?” and Jerry answers “Never.”

(Updated on 22 November 2005)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Michiko Dead

He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. When their strength gives out,
he moves the hands forward, hooking them
on the corners, pulling the weight against
his chest. He moves his thumbs slightly
when the fingers begin to tire, and it makes
different muscles take over. Afterward,
he carries it on his shoulder, until the blood
drains out of the arm that is stretched up
to steady the box and the arm goes numb. But now
the man can hold underneath again, so that
he can go on without ever putting the box down.

By Jack Gilbert


This poem is taken from The Poet’s Companion written by Kim Addonizio & Dorianne Laux, a book I highly recommend to aspiring poets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Pope’s Penis

It hangs deep in his robes, a delicate
clapper at the center of a bell.
It moves when he moves, a ghostly fish in a
halo of silver seaweed, the hair
swaying in the dark and the heat – and at night,
while his eyes sleep, it stands up
in praise of God.

By Sharon Olds

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Food-Thief

(Uganda, drought)

They drive him along the road in the steady
conscious way they drove their cattle
when they had cattle, when they had homes and
living children. They drive him with pliant
peeled sticks, snapped from trees
whose bark cannot be eaten – snapped,
not cut, no one has a knife, and the trees that can be
eaten have been eaten leaf and trunk and the
long roots pulled from the ground and eaten.
They drive him and beat him, a loose circle of
thin men with sapling sticks,
driving him along slowly, slowly
beating him to death. He turns to them
with all the eloquence of the body, the
wrist turned out and the vein up his forearm
running like a root just under the surface, the
wounds on his head ripe and wet as a
rich furrow cut back and cut back at
plough-time to farrow a trench for the seed, his
eye pleading, the iris black and
gleaming as his skin, the white a dark
occluded white like cloud-cover on the
morning of a day of heavy rain.
His lips are open to his brothers as the body of a
woman might be open, as the earth itself was
split and folded back and wet and
seedy to them once, the lines on his lips
fine as the thousand tributaries of a
root-hair, a river, he is asking them for life
with his whole body, and they are driving his body
all the way down the road because
they know the life he is asking for –
it is their life.

By Sharon Olds


I have with me ‘The Gold Cell’, Sharon Olds' third collection of poems, and which the above poem was taken. This is the first time I have read a poetry book written by a single poet. I usually go for collections or anthologies. Like a charm it works its magic, enslaving me under its spell.

(Updated on 14 November 2005)

Friday, November 11, 2005

How Many Times

No matter how many times I try I can’t stop my father
from walking into my sister’s room

and I can’t see any better, leaning from here to look
in his eyes. It’s dark in the hall

and everyone’s sleeping. This is the past
where everything is perfect already and nothing changes,

where the water glass falls to the bathroom floor
and bounces once before breaking.

Nothing. Not the small sound my sister makes, turning
over, not the thump of the dog’s tail

when he opens one eye to see him stumbling back to bed
still drunk, a little bewildered.

This is exactly as I knew it would be.
And if I whisper her name, hissing a warning,

I’ve been doing that for years now, and still the dog
startles and growls until he sees

it’s our father, and still the door opens, and she
makes that small oh turning over.

By Marie Howe


Capital punishment is currently a hot topic among bloggers in Singapore. In fact it was also briefly touched on by local poets Gilbert Koh and Kirpal Singh during the poetry reading event I attended a few days ago at Central Lending Library.

As a freethinker I do not believe in the existence of Heaven and Hell. I do not believe that murderers, sex predators, etc, will go straight to Hell after their death. I do not believe in reincarnation and they will get what they deserved eventually in their next life. I believe in having justice done while they are still alive. I believe murderers should pay for their crimes.

Yes I’ve said it; I am for the death sentence.

Whether certain crimes deserve death is another matter. But if capital punishment continues to remain in this country, I strongly welcome adding adults that sexually abused their children or grandchildren to the Reaper’s list.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Home Visit

The soup tastes terrible. Not
the first time she adds too much salt.
She pours another,
“I know you miss my cooking.”
You force a smile, your fourth bowl.
There is no rush. The kitchen

is a mini stage; frenzied fruit flies dance
around rotten bananas hanging on
naked wall. Below, bold cockroaches
play hide-and-seek among
unwashed clothes. She asks

about her grandson, and scolds you
for not bringing him here. You blame
the long distance, and try to cheer
her with stories about junior,
how he made a card for your wife
on Mother’s Day. Before you leave

she passes you a packet of instant-noodles
wrapped in crumpled newspapers – a gift
to her grandson. You will return it
unwrapped, together with packets of rice,
sugar, salt, and lies

a month later
when you volunteer
again to be her
forgotten son.

Copyright 2005 Alson Teo
(Written on 22 September 2005)

Friday, November 04, 2005

A Plate of Char Siew Rice

My parents used to say it is sinful
to indulge in luxury, satisfied
with brackish water and burnt bread.
(God must be very pleased,
and soon called for them.)

My brother and I still attend church
for prayers and free buns. But today
they served luxury –
Slices of tender pork roasted
to perfection, lay upon fragrant rice
soaked in rosy sweet sauce.

Today we were late.

With only a serving left
to share, who could resist
such temptation?
Not me.

I lowered my head to avoid
my brother’s eyes and licked
that last grain
off the plate.

Copyright 2005 Alson Teo
(Written on 18 March 2005, Friday)