27 June 2005


          The Couple Next Door

          Sometimes at night I hear them fight. I think
          it’s over money. Usually he’s drunk. He always wins.
          Hits her with something heavy - I can’t tell what.
          She cries awhile, then falls silent. A door slams.
          This happens about once or twice a week.

          I listen intently to all their fights. I blast my radio.
          He will hear me. And know that I can hear him too.
          My small intrusions. My vague useless gestures.
          My rock music turning violent, bearing futile witness,
          battering doors at midnight demanding entry.

          What does she do, after he falls asleep?
          Perhaps she lies beside him, counting the reasons
          not to leave. This time not so bad, no need to see doctor.
          Maybe, I cannot go, we are already married.
          Or worse – He won’t do it again. I know he won’t do it again.

          Sometimes in the mornings, on the way to work, I see her
          in the common corridor. She must know that I know.
          Her eyes avoid mine. I let the walls stand.
          I am the stranger who sees and hears nothing.
          I think we may both prefer it that way.
posted by Gilbert at Monday, June 27, 2005

2 Comments:

Blogger Ailyn said...

ughhhh - heart wrentching. reminds me of Luca. i think someone should do a web site (maybe there already is one?) with things that you can do. different levels of safe and appropriate responses to these situations.

February 12, 2006  
Blogger WB said...

This is simply one of the best poems I've ever read in my life! It succeeds because, firstly it is so well observed, and I love the idea of the battered wife as the mirror-image of the poem's speaker, as it were, like the image and the subject separated by the dividing tain of the mirror; secondly it captures remarkably a very Singaporean cadence in the short sentences that any local will tell you, masks an underlying hostility and resentment. It's wonderful. I must say again that I really love the idea of the wife as a double of the poet/neighbour-voyeur. The battered wife is in a sense, after all, looking in on herself, on the abusive situation, as somebody quite removed from it as she consoles herself that 'I know he won't do it again.' Poets too observe from the outside -- like all outside -- and struggle to represent a very interior experience. The poem is really saying that poets are in the position of that abusive wife: low pay, little attention and neglect from public, an in an abusive relationship with impenetrable (hence phallic) truth.

July 29, 2006  

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