16 September 2005

The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh.

            Old Folks Home

            All day long they lie on the
            straight rows of white beds or sit
            in the heavy-duty wheelchairs
            pushed out into the breezy sunshine
            of the gardens.

            Trapped in the prisons
            of their own failing bodies,
            they drift in and out of the haze
            of senility, patiently serving
            out their sentence.

            Still the bright-eyed teenagers come,
            on Saturday mornings, by the busloads,
            sent by their schools
            on compulsory excursions
            to learn the meaning
            of compassion
            as outlined in the CCA syllabus.

            They bring gifts of Khong Guan biscuits,
            they help to mow the lawns,
            they clap their hands performing happy songs
            and valiantly they attempt the old dialects
            trying to communicate.

            Later they will clamber noisily
            back up the departing school buses,
            and next week in class
            they will write startlingly
            similar essays
            on what a meaningful,
            memorable experience they had
            at the old folks’ home
            last week.
posted by Gilbert at Friday, September 16, 2005 14 comments

12 September 2005

            Children's Rhyme

            Grandmother, last night
            I dreamed again I was a child
            dancing round and round
            a wooden table. Singing a song
            you gave me in your tongue
            years ago, about the boy with
            his goats out in the cold
            climbing mountains crossing rivers
            in search of home. In the morning
            I woke and summoned the lyrics
            to myself. But that memory
            escaped me, dived into
            the depths from which all
            dreams spring. All I found was
            tentative, a word, a half-phrase,
            a fragment of a line, pieces of
            a broken whole. So often you and
            the language of you elude
            me now, and against this loss
            I ache and struggle, fail
            and fail again to find my words.
            Still I suspect the history of me
            is there, unerased, the schools
            and campaigns can’t wipe it out,
            no, only send it into hiding.
            You are dead and gone,
            I’m lost, forlorn, but that boy
            I used to be – he’s alive.
            Round and round my head
            he runs, rhyme reciting,
            the words of a lost language
            still escaping always escaping as
            I climb the cold mountains,
            cross the rivers in search of home.
posted by Gilbert at Monday, September 12, 2005 7 comments