14 April 2006

              The Death of Ong Jia Hui

              Your son dies. Your only son dies.
              Your soldier son dies, not in war,
              but in peacetime, not in peace,
              but at sea, drowned in a training accident,
              an accident they say, but they don’t
              tell you why, they don’t tell you
              how it could have happened
              when others were there, everywhere,
              in the water, on the boat,
              yet no one saw him sink,
              no one saw him slip beneath the waves
              the singing waves, the rifle
              slung round his body like a rock or noose,
              a great fatal noose
              with God’s hand pulling.
              No one heard him call for help,
              which finally came of course,
              but came too late,
              so late that all you have now
              for a son is his body,
              some damned medals and the memory
              of that body, so pale and
              cold and clean, and now as you sit
              in your small neat kitchen
              with the solemn, grey-haired colonel
              you find that you have no more tears,
              and though the colonel tries
              he too has no more words
              Mrs Ong, I'm so sorry one more time.
              As he stands to leave,
              he puts his hand on your shoulder,
              a strong firm soldier’s hand
              like your son's,
              as if that could stop the hurt
              or answer questions,
              all your pointless questions,
              they swirl in your head
              and just won’t wash away.
posted by Gilbert at Friday, April 14, 2006


Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

I'm still doing my writing exercise, and this poem is the result of No. 4, where I was supposed to write a poem entitled "You Can't Get The Facts". I've written the poem, but I've decided to call it "The Death of Ong Jia Hui" instead. It's a true story, more details here.

I'm not completely satisfied with it yet ... but the basic draft is done, the rest is editing. Comments and feedback are very welcome.

April 14, 2006  
Blogger Bluesky_Liz said...

It's a truly tragic thing.

The last bit I'm not sure about. IMHO, "Mrs Ong" might not think that her questions are pointless.

April 15, 2006  
Blogger stray cat said...

Literary - no issue but out of respect, you might consider changing the title "You Can't Get The Facts". I feel for the family if they read it. You might see if you can relook the poem on that angle, but you make the call.

April 15, 2006  
Blogger Orso Dorato said...

Its a shame when a death is that needless

April 15, 2006  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

i like the way some of the words are being repeated in the lines, as if questions are being asked.

is this structure deliberate? It works.

April 16, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

Repetition can be a great device in poetry. See this poem on Amy Grier's blog, see how many times the words "liar" and "lie" are used ....

April 16, 2006  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

thanks for the link.

and i thought to avoid repetition is a safer bet! maybe i should try an exercise on that.

April 17, 2006  
Blogger Wolfgang said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 21, 2006  
Blogger Wolfgang said...

This brought tears to my eyes. A friend of mine died in a 'training accident' too.

June 21, 2006  
Blogger Zegreatest said...


chanced upon this while searching for poetry for my lit paper. eeks
i knew jiahui. a friend's friend.


September 07, 2006  

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