30 September 2006


            Somewhere along the way,
            I became familiar with these games
            of words and politics.
            Learned to play them well.
            So did you.

            Now we know how to smile
            when we say the things we don’t mean.
            The half-truth is a useful tool.
            Every day, we’re masking objectives
            and planning new manoeuvres
            in the dark.

            Although you have my respect,
            you do not have my trust.
            We play these games too well.
            I smile at you, and remain wary.
posted by Gilbert at Saturday, September 30, 2006 4 comments

            Any Different

            Work hard, live long, sleep well,
            don't think too much, and remember
            to die quietly when it's your turn to go.
            Accept the standard definitions,
            for resistance is useless.
            Have we not all yearned to be artists
            or martyrs from time to time,
            to wear a face in a faceless crowd.
            Haven’t you learned yet?
            In the dark we are all the same,
            just the same, and all your grieving
            will not make you any different.
posted by Gilbert at Saturday, September 30, 2006 2 comments

26 September 2006


          You think you know my camera well.
          The Nikon F2, the reliable silver one, the one I carried
          For years with me to weddings, birthdays,
          holidays, the convocations of favourite nieces.
          To the gushing Merlion, to the National Day Parade,
          to the sunset views from the Benjamin Sheares bridge.
          To our vacation on the island of Mauritius
          where we made much love and swam together
          in a picture-perfect blue-green sea. To all our days
          together that mattered, and to those that didn’t.
          Wherever we went, that old camera came along
          like a silent witness, preserving what I saw
          through its clear lens. At home, you browsed through
          the thick collections of our days and seemed surprised
          by how people were always happy, smiling,
          looking the right way. Even inanimate objects like rocks,
          flowers and the white sands of beaches took on
          a calm, benign personality. They seemed to assert
          that the world was full of love and other good things
          and would stay that way. You did not understand
          my art. You did not know what my hands and eye
          had done to those moments, how this camera had closed
          in what it wanted to see. With care and precision.
          With a skill I’d honed for years and practised,
          almost like deceit.

posted by Gilbert at Tuesday, September 26, 2006 5 comments

22 September 2006

        Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M

        You were five months old. New in my life.
        You lay in the cot listening to nursery rhymes
        repeated by a battery-operated toy. You couldn’t sleep.
        When Ba Ba Black Sheep came on for the fourth time,
        you wept with what sounded like despair.
        Already you had a taste for the better things in life.

        From the closet I took the old guitar.
        I hadn’t touched it for years. I wiped the dust off
        with a cloth. Tuned up the sad, neglected strings again.
        But my fingers did remember and my ears were still there.
        So I played. I sang Yesterday like a clear memory.
        And there was Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence,
        and Presley’s Love Me Tender. All oldies even
        back when I’d first heard them myself.

        In the dark you sat, propped against your baby pillows.
        Wide-eyed and listening, you followed my voice and guitar,
        gulping down each note. It was like nothing you’d heard before.
        You were fascinated. You struggled to stay awake.
        At 3 a.m, the last beautiful stanza of If by Bread
        finally pulled you into sleep.

        But I sat there by myself, playing on. Cradling the guitar
        close to me. You remind me of things, son, that I’d known all along.
        Like the sound of a simple major chord. And the way the old songs talk
        of love and tell a story. I teach you words, I sing you songs,
        and you teach me again their possibilities.
posted by Gilbert at Friday, September 22, 2006 8 comments