21 May 2008


              Terminal

              Sipping a little water
              he calmly talks of pain.
              He trusts in Jesus (I do not)
              believes in heaven
              (I do not), and for a
              last wish, would have me
              trust and believe too.
              Then he coughs, once,
              very hard -
              blood and phlegm
              spilling from his mouth
              landing on his shirt,
              a dark patch like cancer.
              As I reach for the tissue box,
              he lifts his arms slightly
              away from himself,
              a look of mild disgust
              and annoyance
              on his face,
              as if his body were
              a broken old TV or car,
              a piece of machinery
              soon to be thrown
              away.
posted by Gilbert at Wednesday, May 21, 2008

24 Comments:

Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

At this point in time, I don't really like this poem yet. It doesn't feel quite right to me. But I must persist with my writing exercise ....

April 19, 2006  
Blogger Bluesky_Liz said...

Very interesting read. I feel that the characters might have something more to say. The beginning feels like a discussion of beliefs between a sick man and his healthy friend is about to start.

Write on, Gilbert!

April 19, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

This isn't about a fictitious "sick man and his healthy friend". It really is about me and a cousin of mine, who died of cancer. He was a pastor. I've slightly dramatised the story (there wasn't any blood in his saliva) but other details are quite true to what happened on my last visit to him ...

April 19, 2006  
Blogger floots said...

for me it draws attention to that divide between the living and the near-dead
however hard we/i try
it is difficult to cross
the fact is that the living are trapped by ideals beliefs and mundanity
the near-dead are embarking on something else
i think that you highlight this very well and with just enough detail
it is a sterile time and this comes over so well

April 20, 2006  
Blogger Amy said...

I know this is just a draft you're working with, but I think you've got something here. I was moved by the way the patient looks at his body, as if it is a piece of broken machinery. It's as if he is looking forward to death, when he can be rid of it.

April 20, 2006  
Blogger Bluesky_Liz said...

I'm sorry for my casual interpretation of this piece. I didn't know. My sincere condolences.

April 20, 2006  
Blogger sigmund fraud said...

This reflects exactly what I keep saying to myself whenever I go to a funeral "Well, his/her body's expiry date had come..." No regrets (at least for me) as

" a piece of machinery that has
gone defective and will
soon be thrown away."

April 20, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

Thanks all. I feel this piece needs editing; but I'll let it sit in my subconscious and boil for a while before I come back to it.

Liz, no worries .... it has been two years now. He was a much older cousin, so I always thought of him more as an uncle.

Floots & Amy, you've both identified what I wanted to do with this poem. I must be getting somewhere there. :)

Fraud, ahhh, the million-dollar question is .... Does anything remain, when the machinery breaks down for good?

April 20, 2006  
Blogger MB said...

I'm with Floots and Amy. I think you've got something here, and I think with a little future editing you will get there. Good work, Gilbert. The central feel of the piece is very compelling.

April 20, 2006  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

I agree too. You've defnitely got something with this poem. The skeptical speaker provides a mixed, ambiguous tone (sympathy, sadness and perhaps, a kind of hopeful wish on behalf of the cousin's faith). The title, however, for me seems a little off (in coneveying the sentiments).

April 21, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

Just posted an edited version ...

Dreamer, any suggestions for an alternative title?

April 21, 2006  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

Hi Gilbert,

Can't say I know enough of poetry or have that poetic sensibility to suggest a title, but will just mention some silly ideas of mine:

Passing? Passing on? Leaving behind? (All these sound too trite)

(Perhaps, I could to learn to write poetry from poets like yourself some day.)

April 24, 2006  
Blogger the cloned corpse of marcus tal said...

I agree with the wise Floots, a profound and searching attempt nonetheless

Kind Regards

April 28, 2006  
Blogger MB said...

I can't tell what you did to edit it, Gilbert (which is probably a good thing!). But I'm liking it.

May 03, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

This is a further edited version. Changed the title - from "Machinery" to "Terminal" - chopped off a few lines, and rearranged the line breaks.

July 08, 2006  
Blogger The Clown said...

I feel sorry now for myself.... perhaps, I landed here a bit too late..... editing a poem is almost like taking a piece of art to develop some kind of technology..... Even though it's my personal viewpoint but I'd like to believe that when you edit a poem it's not the poem that changes but you. Your heart has paved the way and your brain's taken you away. But anyways, I'm not imposing my statements on you... It's just that I feel I'm a bit too late.... smile.

July 10, 2006  
Blogger floots said...

stark
powerful
brilliant
nice one gilbert

July 10, 2006  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

Nice. "Terminal" is a much better title, and I think it does clinches the poem.

July 11, 2006  
Blogger lakeside girl said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

July 12, 2006  
Blogger lakeside girl said...

I'm no poet, but i certainly appreciate the glimpses of your soul in your words.

This poem and the story behind it made my heart wrench.

July 12, 2006  
Blogger MB said...

Tight and powerful now.

July 13, 2006  
Blogger Plus Ultra said...

Just when I was thinking that poetry blogs are rare in this region and I stumble on yours. I like 'Terminal', reminds me of Wong Hui Nam's poetry about death in the Wards, cant remember the title but I think it was in his book 'The hills are distant'(or something like that!),the pastor attitude about his body...upsets and upsets even more when you write so graphically...food for thought, good strong, ending, excellent. Can I link?

July 21, 2006  
Blogger Plus Ultra said...

Hi, now I remember, I first read your poem in No Other City...Foreign Worker Cutting Tree, right?

July 21, 2006  
Blogger =├×inksheep said...

I like how you started off, staggering the "I do nots"... however the second half of the poem reads more like prose than poetry.

>.< and the meaning doesn't really stand out strong either.

But it's great to know you're still writing. I really love some of your stuff.

May 29, 2008  

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