16 April 2006



                Editing Poetry

                I am at work
                today
                crafting language
                polishing
                my lines of
                verse
                humming to
                myself
                as I bring out
                the quiet
                shine
                of these
                small
                creations.
posted by Gilbert at Sunday, April 16, 2006 8 comments



              The Beggars in Chinatown

              One of them approaches me now,
              small and bent-over, shrivelled
              by age and history.

              She mumbles and stretches out
              her wrinkled paw to ask for coins -

              but I look away, apologetic.

              I do not see her.

              I tell myself that by now she must
              be used to being invisible.

              The poor do not usually exist –
              they merely inhabit some mysterious zone
              beyond the range of our
              normal vision.
posted by Gilbert at Sunday, April 16, 2006 13 comments

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 10 comments

13 April 2006

XVII The Moon, Fred Martin

              You Had A Nightmare

              Then the wide-eyed
              shock of waking

              the surprise of bedsheets

              street lights through
              the usual windows

              and these arms of mine,
              again around you.
posted by Gilbert at Thursday, April 13, 2006 9 comments

12 April 2006


            Why The Buddha Smiles

            Shen Hsiu the senior monk rises from meditation
            And writes this on the monastery wall:

              The body is the tree of enlightenment
              The mind is the bright mirror that stands before it
              Take care to wipe it constantly
              Let not the dust settle

            Hui Neng the kitchen boy rises from his sleep
            reads the wall and in reply he writes:

              There never was a tree of enlightenment
              Nor any bright mirror standing
              Since all is empty
              Where is dust to settle?
    posted by Gilbert at Wednesday, April 12, 2006 7 comments

    11 April 2006


                somebody's ashes

                caught in my mouth

                as the wind danced wild
                among the offerings

                on a night of hungry ghosts.

                I spat, then spat again
                vehemently:

                Choi!

                Not my time yet.
    posted by Gilbert at Tuesday, April 11, 2006 8 comments

    10 April 2006



                the lost poem

                like a fish briefly
                breaking the lake's clear surface
                then slipping away
    posted by Gilbert at Monday, April 10, 2006 7 comments

    07 April 2006


                  Poison

                  For three days now
                  a guppy has been dead
                  and floating,
                  bobbing around
                  the aquarium filter.
                  Each night I come home
                  late from work
                  and observe the further
                  stages of its
                  decomposition,
                  the slow collapse of
                  fins, tail and
                  abdomen.
                  Bad things linger
                  in our lives
                  because we don’t
                  have the energy
                  to deal with
                  them,
                  to fish them out,
                  no, we only
                  watch
                  as if hypnotised
                  while they rot
                  and fester
                  as they will
                  sometimes spreading
                  a slow and lethal
                  poison.
    posted by Gilbert at Friday, April 07, 2006 9 comments

    02 April 2006


                The Plant at my Window

                I want to be the potted plant
                at my window because it exists
                without fear or worry
                it understands that its sole purpose
                is to live and grow
                and in the most adverse circumstances
                it will not complain against
                fate or cruelty.
                Having nothing to hope for,
                it will not despair,
                and as it does not know the
                meaning of giving up,
                there will be always be a new leaf
                a new flower, or an old root
                pushing deeper still
                for water, for as long as
                this is possible.
                A final day will come,
                as it must for all that live,
                but the end, as I imagine it,
                will be painless and without regret,
                without a sense of being
                cheated,
                or a need for courage,
                without even a trace
                of memory.
    posted by Gilbert at Sunday, April 02, 2006 7 comments


                The Ugly Duckling

                In later years, the swan became
                even more beautiful.

                The lake was his second sky
                and across its clear surface he glided
                like a dancer.

                But sometimes in the evenings
                he paused by the reeds
                at the lakeside

                to watch the toads in their season.

                Like a swarm of cold grey warts
                on infected skin,
                hundreds of them gathered to mate,
                belching out their vile croaksong,
                their ancient sound of
                the urge
                .......of life itself.

                Watching them, he would recall
                his ugly duckling days,

                and again he would despise himself
                for his weakness,

                for his fear of living in a world
                that would not regard him
                ........................... as beautiful.
    posted by Gilbert at Sunday, April 02, 2006 7 comments


              One Picture of the Two of You

              So that night, you grew wistful,
              telling me about the man you loved,
              and why he could not love you back.

              He was my friend too, I could
              not hear this, and uneasily I steered away
              from the private convolutions of your heart.
              Get over it, I counselled, return for a while
              to Malaysia, see your family, and remember
              where home is.

              So I said what came easy for me,
              excusing myself from your confidence,
              how lightly my words moved within
              the maze of your emotions.

              Neither I nor you nor he could have guessed
              then that in a year's time you'd be dying
              in a KL hospital, an unexpected disease
              spreading wildfire through your marrow.

              He would be the one packing a hasty bag,
              sleepless on the last train rushing north
              in darkness, arriving late again,
              too late again as usual.

              If only you’d known this earlier, or he, or even I,
              then things might have turned out differently.
              Then again, perhaps not.

              I permute the possibilities, ponder
              the what-ifs, imagine reversing the clock.
              The futility is mocking. I know absolutely that
              none of this can matter now.
    posted by Gilbert at Sunday, April 02, 2006 4 comments