GetLit! Part 1: Poems of the MRT
#BuySingLit will be held this coming weekend (Feb 24 to 26) - three days packed with more than 40 activities in all four official languages to promote Singapore literature, aka SingLit.
In print and online, The New Paper is profiling some of the talent involved, starting with a selection of poems written about the MRT during the Singapore Poetry Writing Month (SingPoWriMo) Facebook writing challenge, which is held every April.
Teh Su Ching
The only other person I knew
who lived on that hill was
an ill-fated Peranakan matriarch.
Your dad loved crystals for fengshui
reasons and my name means crystal but
he always called me something else,
not that I minded - your home was the true
Centrepoint, the Emerald of my eye.
The other day a girl in her 20s said to me,
"Remember in our teens when the idea of
being a waitress was so romantic?"
I thought of the white Pre-Rouge T-shirts
they gave us as part of our uniform that
limbo between JC and uni when
the smell of spirits and cigarettes filled
my nostrils and the walkway next to
Acid and Alley Bar. And how you'd
wave discreetly, knowing I'd get into
trouble if seen chatting on shift.
Instead of gulping Ice Cold Beer to Little
John I lounged on your black leather
chair, clutching its plastic-encased remote.
Can't say I felt betrayed when Specialists left
(and the Jack of all trades age began);
I didn't mind its replacement - I asked
you to be my bridesmaid over its food
republic Yong Tau Foo, after all. Your surprise
was news to me and a wake-up call to
express and appreciate affection more.
So here's the 411 (or 313): you've moved West
macam chasing me and I've moved way North,
refusing to be caught. But every time I am back
and take out a book from library@orchard redux
I look across the road and think of you and
wonder if we will ever feel so old and
knowing and invulnerable again.
The Green Line
it ends when people start
flying from changi, expo-sed
to the heat. tanah, they tell
the merah line. they order
simei hot tam to bring pines
to plant. no one pasir-bly thought
of ris low. the trees grow, the nation
still, people complain: without
wood, bed not ok. no one
can still spell kembangan, eunos that.
lebar reclaims swamp. advice -
aljunied to calm down, kaki kallang,
kaki wonder lavender or not your backyard
tree grow already. got bugis good sign.
city halls flood, raffles' place interchanged
with capes of stakes,
demanding for outram parks to bury
their sons, tiong bahrus. they scream -
our red hills are no longer the queens' town,
no longer part of the commonwealth. buona
got no vista to dovertail to, no clementi
to drink. when jurong east meets west,
chinese gardens don't turn angmoh,
no lakesides to save this burnt city.
government responds, lay boons
on the ground, but only for pioneer
generation. joo, tired of all this s***,
goes back to koon.
tiong bahru: "tiong" refers to cemetery in Hokkien and "bahru" is new in Malay
tanjong pagar: cape of stakes in Malay
paya lebar: "wide swamp" in Malay
Daryl Qilin Yam
Just down the road there used to be
a crocodile farm. "For real?" asked
the mother. "Can't imagine," said
the brother. All that road over
all that water.
Poets in Singapore have nothing
to believe in, except perhaps
the smallness of things, or the breaks
in our language, the unreliability
of bak chor mee. No point standing tall
unless one was tall
to begin with. Be damn sure of what to say
or don't bother saying at all.
The best curses come
in three syllables,
the worst from the lips
of our fathers.
Always the scaffolding
on new buildings,
the building of long bridges
over longer roads. Old water runs
in newer canals.
Bedok: The Haunting
No bombs, no bang. The whimper you
hear is your mouth denying double
vision, triple bus station, doppelgänger
cinema resurrected. Look: Princess rises
from under McDonald's. Bedok Point
reunites with LAN arcade. The interchange is
spoilt for choice of colour. Grass reclaims
basements, smothering tenants. Drivers
collide into past and present. It turns out
train tattle is rumour-true: the past must be
feared, lines re-drawn every four years to keep
history out, prevent place from repeating itself
in the space of another. No use now. Today you
will see it: before the forest returns, the city
reveals its layers.
Pasir Ris: Time Locked
ever since the government decided
to ban the clocks, it has been midnight
in joo koon. after we realised
that these changes were not going
away, we changed our tune. now,
all the clubs pour drinks out west
and jurong east with its four malls
serves all the night shoppers, insomniacs.
on the other hand, raffles basks
under the afternoon heat, summer
temperatures that shows no end
of relenting. to fight it botanical gardens
grows sunflowers, marina bay installs
misters to soften the air with dew.
even the richest people move
from their houses in bukit timah: say
it's too hot to live in the city; sentosa
island takes them with moonlight
condos and the finest starred restaurants.
yet, of all the places i've found
nothing beats the end of the line
i travel to in a rattling carriage:
a place where it's always dawning
sky pink as a fresh hibiscus.
Joo Koon: 2230
Pamela Seong Koon
we stand at an interchange built
too late. there is nothing here;
pastamania forgoes dinner, 7-11
never stocks potato chips. you
twitch: this is air that visits
and leaves in a huff. your bunk
bed pines for your skin but
you swallow cigarettes crushed
by the feet of gravel, foreign.
time stops if you brandish it with
flames yet you cannot hold
white ash; we let our lips
cleave. two escalators stay
divided by longing.