29 June 2006
27 June 2006
- Rainbow Fish
when we were kids
in the stream
behind our home,
fish those small bright
in the water?
Now we sit here
on a rainy day
over beer and
in a netful of small
see how they gasp
and leap crazily,
after all this time
their silver bellies
still vivid in
- the sun.
24 June 2006
- Poor Speaker
I have a habit of mumbling.
My tongue grows thick and I myself can hear
how from my mouth
one word emerges indistinctly into the next,
like porridge poured onto other
This often happens when I am caught
in one of those social situations
where I need most
to appear sophisticated, intelligent and articulate,
in other words, those occasions
when people talk too much,
say too little and hardly listen at all.
At such times, in a certain ironic way,
the incomprehensible sounds
escaping my lips
are in fact the most appropriate things
I could possibly say.
23 June 2006
- Paddy Chew’s Last Show
Life is real. Art is its mirror. Or is it the
other way round? Paddy Chew has forgotten.
His life is here now, on stage, Paddy starring as himself,
the final act, before the curtain falls
and the lights go out forever.
“This is me,” he says to the audience, “take a look.”
He lifts his shirt up. A stunned silence.
Ribs cast shadows on other ribs. The flesh
has fallen away, the body a territory conquered
by the relentless virus.
This is what Paddy tells his audience:
I liked women. I liked men too.
At least that is what he remembers.
These days his body yearns for nothing, not sex,
not food or water, nothing but its own breath,
exhausted, in and out, in and out,
an almost unnatural thing.
Lies are for the living. Truth is for the brave.
Masks fall away when death comes close.
“I am so close,” Paddy says, “to dying.”
All he wants is to show the audience
what he has seen. That all of us are dying,
and none of us should die alone.
Paddy dies, but not alone. In a way, he lives on too.
Love is his message. Love endures. I did not know him,
but I know what love is. I wrote this poem
so that others like him will live,
and die, but not alone.
22 June 2006
- About My Father
Back from the hospital,
two weeks after the surgeon cut
his heart apart and sewed it
back together again.
He resumes his normal life.
Fixing breakfast in the morning
for the family - bread and jam,
and coffee - then settling down
to read the paper.
Only occasionally speaking,
to express surprise at some event
- reported in the press.
- It is as if nothing has happened.
When he has truly departed
I shall remember him
as he was, here.
A man of few words, inscrutable.
Drinking black, hot coffee.
His eye steady on a world
he'd already begun to
20 June 2006
- Dental Check-Up
The week before my
appointment, I abstain from
coffee, upgrade my brand
and religiously brush
the most difficult crooks
and crannies of
and other recent
Now I open my mouth,
peer hard into the bathroom mirror,
move my tongue from
side to side, self-
Doctor, forgive me,
it's been too long
since my last
19 June 2006
You want me to say you’re beautiful
but I won't use these tricks
on you -
moonlight walks, sweet words,
fine wine and candlelight
professions of love forever
in silly poems
on rainy nights made
it’s the clever men
who know these tricks,
the women never do -
when I hold you darkly
on crumpled linen
then search my eyes
you'll know that I think
11 June 2006
In a secret place, a very secret place,
with the world so faraway
that I end up whispering to myself.
No one knows I'm here,
and no one will hear me speak.
Just beside me, a clear little stream,
running over pebbles, passing moss-covered rocks.
If I slipped and hit my head,
I think I might stain the water red
and die here.
Listen to how it breathes, babbles, all nonsense,
rushing to irrelevant destinations -
see how it ignores me.
I just might want to slip, hit my head,
to stain the water red
and die here.
04 June 2006
Late at night I return home
from work and find my wife and child
fast asleep together.
When I lift him from her breast
she sighs in her sleep as if lost
in distant dreams.
But in the dark my son stirs
and clings to me,
fighting off the drowsiness
that drapes him like a cloak.
His small arms, recalling
his father’s body, lock around my neck
as if imagining a drowning.
So here too is the language of loss
the fear of loss,
and this is how he learns to love,
as we ourselves have learned.
We forget, we crowd
our lives with white noise,
bright colours, a thousand
- irrelevant things,
but in the end we return
to all there really is –
the sons, the fathers
the women whom they love
and in all the nights ahead
this great black fear
02 June 2006
- Third Party
The woman I love
is yelling at her mother
who is yelling back.
I try to intercede,
to make peace.
She snaps, “Shut up,
it’s none of your business.”
On this point alone,
her mother fully agrees.
I sit back, roll my eyes
at the ceiling.
Taking the spectator’s
They turn back to their
- When I Was Little
Dragons used to dance in the sky,
and strange animals stretched as far as the eye
could see, cotton white against brilliant blue.
They would not speak, but I saw them going through
their lazy movements, changing shape with the wind,
sometimes disappearing, then reappearing,
sometimes looking down to watch us crawling
about on earth. They knew we wouldn’t notice.
- Bako Island
Thirty minutes by boat takes me from here
to a village where people make their living
tossing nets into the sea;
but at sunset on Bako
no footprints walk the beach but mine
and all the world is sky and ocean.
Still it seems that no one knows
this place, no one remembers
how a hermit crab defies, marking
a wind-swept, wave-swept beach
with the sandy trails of
its lonely travels.