Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wearing The Collar

I live with a lady and four cats
and some days we all get

some days I have trouble with
one of the

other days I have trouble with
two of the

other days,

some days I have trouble with
all four of the

and the

ten eyes looking at me
as if I was a dog.

By Charles Bukowski (1920 – 94)


Somehow this poem reminds me of one of mine. No, no, I am not comparing myself to him. No sir, he is so much better than me, hell I am not even a poet. ;p

Friday, August 11, 2006

    Another Reason Why I Don’t
Keep a Gun in the House

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbor’s dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

By Billy Collins
taken from The Apple That Astonished Paris


There it goes again!

Just like that stupid dog in the poem, barks, barks, barks! Why does it have to bark so early on a Sunday morning? Unlike my wife I am a light sleeper. Most likely due to the training I had while I was doing my National Service. Imagine having to storm out of the barrack in the middle of the night and be combat ready in less than a minute. Looking back, it was kind of cool actually. But what the heck, I am now a civilian, can’t I seep in peace?

Wouldn’t it be nice if dogs could talk instead of these senseless barking? “Where is my breakfast? Are you trying to starve me?" or “Time for my morning walk so get your fat ass moving human slave!"

There it goes again! I can't even write in peace. If only I could just pinpoint its exact location, oh boy I will not hesitate to give a piece of my mind to its owner. It is driving me crazy! Arghhhh!!!!!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why Won't They Come?

For them, we gladly imitate animals
like those in corporate zoo.
Here a mindless monkey leaping
desperately, trapped in a urban cage.
There a grumpy duck stuck
between frozen lake and uncertain sky.

But why won’t they come?

If they want, we can even be more outrage,
just try us. Watch me pee
right here, right now -
the world is my private loo.
Perhaps now we have their full attentions?
Are we not expressive enough?

But still why won’t they come?

Maybe they are ashamed
of how others might perceive them.
Or maybe they’ve chosen
to be temporary blind.
They do have a choice you know.

But wait! An audience – a child,
sitting alone at the edge of reason.
Watching her, we held our breath
as if the purpose of our existence depends
solely on this little girl.

She yawns.

By Alson Teo


Who exactly is my audience?

To a certain degree I am the first audience of my poems. I don’t mean the ‘I’ as the author but the ‘I’ as a reader. And to do this I need to step out of myself and disconnect emotionally from my works. Although that is important, what I am more concern is whether my poems are able to communicate with you, my intended audience.

But frankly as an author you do have a choice. For example if you wish to expand your audience's base, no point using words that only university graduates will understand. A couple of these words are fine but if the average readers need to refer a dictionary with every line, you might one to consider using simpler words.

I want to share with you an extract from INTERLOGUE, Studies in Singapore Literature, Volume 2: Poetry.

Mr Kirpal Singh* a respected poet both in Singapore and overseas, in the Introduction section commented that Mr Boey Kim Cheng

“ …writes from deep within, without compromise. His poems go down very well with academics and scholar-critics but not, I am told, with the general readers. His is a learned poetry and demands perhaps more of the contemporary reader’s time and effort. Does this mean that poets like Boey have lost their relevance? Or does it mean that readers today are less sophisticated or less discriminating? Boey Kim Cheng, like Yap, is reserved both in manner and person, and his poems while drawing one in, also let one out. Hence the complications.”

Frankly you don’t need a dictionary to read Boey’s poems. What you do need is some patience and perhaps as suggested by Mr Kirpal Singh, free time and efforts.

The thing is I am not a sophisticated reader. I just want to be entertained. I don't want to spend my time guessing what the author is trying to say. I want to feel the author’s heartbeats. I want to shout “Wow!” and yet be speechless at the same time because of what I've read. I want to cry and laugh with the poems. I am a greedy reader. I want to feel all these after my first attempt, okay lah, maybe after the second attempt.

I am not a sophisticated reader. If I want to read serious writings, I'll get myself a newspaper.

* Mr Kirpal Singh is the General Editor of INTERLOGUE and Editor of the first 3 volumes in the Series. He is internationally recognized both as a scholar and creative writer.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Photograph contributed by Liz


As if her casual touch
Is as deadly as her tainted blood.
Daggered stares keep
............................. her at bay. Even her
Shadow weeps
............................. alone.

By Alson Teo
(For 5th DPS (S) Poetry Writing Competition)


I truly admire those who took part in the recent NaPoWriMo 2006. A poem a day for 30 days required strong determination and a never-say-die attitude. You do not need to produce world class poems during this period but still they should be presentable.

So how do you write a poem out of nothing?

During the past few weeks I found myself in the same situation. No I didn’t take part in NaPoWriMo but I did take part in my own 5th DPS (S) Poetry Writing Competition. And to some extent get a taste of what it would be like if I should particiate in NaPoWriMo.

With a total of 9 submissions and only 2 days before closing date, I decided to participate in the competition. The thing is although all 12 photograhs were selected by me, I just can’t seem to establish a connection with them. And with only a day left, I decided to write an acrostic poem. Maybe it is just me but I feel that acrostic poems are more suitable for writing excerice rather than for competition. But with so little time left, what choice do I have?

For this short poem to work, I need to take into consideration its title, content, form, and the photograph. Form has been taken care of since I’ve decided to write an acrostic poem. All I need to do is to form the word “AIDS” with the first alphabet of each line. Its content is straightforward enough i.e. a poem about isolation and rejection of an AIDS patient by the society. I decided on the title “Rejection” because I think it sums up the poem nicely and reinforces the ending.

Another reason why I decided on an acrostic poem was because I wanted it to be able to stand on its feet i.e. without the photograph.

PS. Liz, is the figure on the left hand side of your photograph a human or a stack of rocks? :)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kindergarten Snapshot

Tumblers of Ribena, with tooth-marked caps.
Lined up by the window, where sun-drugged
Haywire ants navigated marshes of syrup,
The abacus was a grid of necklaces,
The globe the offspring
Of roulette-wheel and beach ball.
That Malay boy who bought tea to school
Was considered strange. So were those

Who came with squares on their sleeves –
Some black, some blue, for Ah Gong
And Ah Ma. And other bewildering relatives
Who bequeathed to them the badge
To the night school of mourning.

But no grief on their faces.
Not a trace, during afternoons
Of two-by-two, the teapot song.
And being called monkeys in the
Playground. We out-chorused one another
Through whistle-gap teeth. National Day:
Pom-pom hands and hula-hoop hips.

Other days: fractured crayons, a pencil
Sharpened on both ends, like a hex.
The girl who stared at the shut windows
Wishing for X-ray vision or a clock
With no hands. A puddle of shame-shame.

Sleeping time. Lay your head
On your arms. The wood of the table
Humming like underwater. If you opened
Your eyes you could see who else
Was disobedient. You could also drift
To the secret tapping of a friend,
Senseless Morse, galloping fingernails
Like firecrackers from a far-off holiday.

By Alfian Bin Sa’at
(Taken from A History of Amnesia
Published by Ethos Books)


The reason why I took so long to update my afterthought was because I couldn’t find my Kindergarten’s days photos. I’ve no idea where I've kept them. If I am not mistaken they should be somewhere in my new house but I’ve search high and low but still no sign of them. Arghhhhh!!!!

This is so frustrating!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Among Strangers

Who are these white strangers
Upright in starched aprons,
Flannels ready in scrubbed hands,
With bright smiles stitched onto their faces,
Their blue eyes fixed on messes
Round her mouth, their noses held
Against her leaking smell?

A white porcelain bath stands
Antiseptic on a wooden floor.
Thin fingers turn the tap,
Measure out the lukewarm water.
She climbs into a brief assault
Of yellow soap, then shivers, thankful
For release to a coarse towel.

Black shadows creep around
Rows of creaking metal beds.
Humped beneath two grey blankets
She thrusts her knees towards her damp breath,
Clamps her arms tight against her flesh.
At last her urine seeps out
Warm, familiar, spreading into sleep.

By Elke Dutton
(Taken from Writing for Self-Discovery
by Myra Schneider and John Killick)


The above poem was written by Elke Dutton, a participant in one of the writing workshop conducted by Myra Schneider a well-known UK poet. She started off with Flow-Writing about silence and afterwards focused on a small part of it, which she later developed into a poem. I really like this piece and so do a search for her background or poems in the Internet.

Unfortunately none is to be found. If you have any links to her poems please let me know. Thanks.

A friend of mine, Liz has bravely taken up the challenge and participates in the still on-going NaPoWriMo 2006. To be frank I am quite tempted to do the same though not necessary during the month of April.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Feared Drowned

Suddenly nobody knows where you are,
your suit black as seaweed, your bearded
head slick as a seal’s.

Somebody watches the kids. I walk down the
edge of the water, clutching the towel
like a widow’s shawl around me.

None of the swimmers is just right.
Too short, too heavy, clean-shaven,
they rise out of the surf, the water
rushing down their shoulders.

Rocks stick out near shore like heads.
Kelp snakes in like a shed black suit
and I cannot find you.

My stomach begins to contract as if to
vomit salt water

when up the sand toward me comes
a man who looks very much like you,
his beard matted like beach grass, his suit
dark as a wet shell against his body.

Coming closer, he turns out
to be you – or nearly.
Once you lose someone it is never exactly
the same person who comes back.

By Sharon Olds taken from Satan Says

Afterthought I

I had a very weird dream yesterday.

I dreamt that I was in a classroom. I think it was my primary school but I am not too sure. It was raining heavily and after a short while the water level reached the school’s third floor. I was standing near the window and saw a boy from the next class climbing out of the window. He started to run to-and-fro along the window’s extension, ignoring the dangers of falling into the water.

Anyway I yelled at him to get back in but he refused. Just then his teacher threatened to call the boy’s parents if he doen't get his ass back into the classroom immediately. In an act of defiance the boy jumped into the water followed by his teacher to rescue him. Surprisingly the boy was quite a good swimmer and swarm to safety. On the other hand his teacher seemed to have problems stay afloat.

After a while she stopped struggling and the water carried her motionless body away. All this while I just stood there, looking but not offering any help. I should have done something but I didn’t. I just stood there, watching.

Then I realized the rain had stop and the water subsided. The police came and out of guilt I rushed down to look for the officer in-charge to offer my help as I have witnessed the whole incident.

The officer told me the cause of death was not by drowning but due to the fall. Someone was crying behind me. I turned around and saw a young man in tears. The officer told me he was the boy’s elder brother. “Where is the boy?” I asked. “He has gone missing after witnessing his teacher’s death,” replied the officer.

End of dream.

It was really a weird dream.

(Window's extension: I am not sure if it is the right name but it is the extra areas just outside the window.)

Afterthought II

“Once you lose someone it is never exactly
the same person who comes back.”

The person you are today is not exactly the person you were yesterday or who you will be tomorrow. If this is the case, who is the real ‘me’?

Friday, March 31, 2006

A Madman

West of Wan-li Bridge, beside our grass cottage,
Po-hua Stream would delight the angler of Ts’ang-lang.

Caressed by wind, bamboo sways – elegant, flawless.
In rain, red lotus blossoms grow more and more fragrant.

Old friends with fat salaries have stopped writing,
And the kids, forever hungry, wear faces of cold despair.

About to fill some gutter, he is carefree, the madman
Grown old laughing at his growing steadily madder.

(Taken from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu,
Translated by David Hinton)


It was not my original intention to post this poem. But the last stanza caught my attention,

“About to fill some gutter, he is carefree, the madman
Grown old laughing at his growing steadily madder.”

We were told that the madman is laughing at his growing madness.

But why is he laughing? Is he laughing because he is free from the harshness of reality? Is he laughing because he is free to do what he pleases? Or is he laughing because he knows it is the world that is growing steadily madder and only he is sane enough to realize it?

I wish I could laugh like him.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

An Empty Purse

Though bitter, juniper berries are food
For immortals, and cirrus flushed with morning
Light. But people are common things,
These tangles of trouble my only life:

A frozen well each morning and no stove,
Cold nights without quilts … In fear
Of shame an empty purse brings, I hold
In mine this one coin I keep, peering in.

(Taken from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu,
Translated by David Hinton)


I am going to be unemployed soon.

The first time I was unemployed, it was for a period of 6 months. After completing my National Service and with no working experience it was extremely tough to get a job. I felt so useless, a good-for-nothing.

The second time was for a period of 3 months. Although by then I had a couple of years of working experience, I still found it hard to get a job. To be frank although the second time was shorter than the first time, but for some reasons I felt deeply depressed, even suicidal at times.

The third time was for a period of 7 months. I resigned after my operation in May. Although it was a minor operation I took about 2 months to recover. It was an unforgettable experience. And 5 months later, I tendered my resignation. Luckily for me, I was too busy preparing for my examination (October), new house (November) and wedding (May). No time to be depressed.

But this time I have only my blogs and my poetry forum to keep me occupied. I am going to be unemployed again soon.

(Updated on 5 April 2006)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Still a wanderer farming at the Southern Capital,
Spirit-wounded, I can’t stop gazing north out windows.

But today, I take my wife out in the skiff. Drifting,
We watch our kids bathe in the bright, clear river.

Butterflies tumble through air, one chasing another.
Sharing stems, lotus blossoms float in natural pairs.

Tea, sugar-cane juice – we bring along what simple
Things we have, our clay jars no less than jade.

(Taken from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu,
Translated by David Hinton)


I will be featuring some poems from The Selected Poems of Tu Fu in my next few posts. All poems in this book are translated by David Hinton. What is interesting about his approach was that although he tried to remain faithful to the content of Tu Fu’s poems, he have made little attempt to mimic the formal characteristics of the originals.

His translations read more like contemporary poetry, i.e. the way Tu Fu might have written them if he is alive today. Personally I welcome this approach because I’ve read translations that followed strictly to the formal characteristics of the originals and I think they sound forced and too artificial.

(Updated on 10 January 2006)