Lifestyle

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.

Somerset

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.
 
 

Teh Su Ching, 31, writes films, plays and for TV. Her work has been shown in Tokyo, London, Shanghai, Moscow and New York, and on Mediacorp Channel 5 and Channel 8. Her featured poem Somerset is dedicated to a close primary school friend.

 

The Green Line

Min Lim

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
breathes.

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.

Glossary:
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

Min Lim is an undergraduate reading history at Yale-NUS College. In her own time, she engages in graphic design work, photography and poetry. Her works can be found at: minlim.com

 

Lorong Chuan

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.

Daryl Qilin Yam, 26, is a writer of prose and poetry. His first novel, Kappa Quartet (Epigram Books, 2016), was longlisted for the 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.


 

Bedok: The Haunting

Abdul Hamid

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.

Abdul Hamid, 24, is a final-year student at Yale-NUS College reading arts and humanities. He dabbles in prose, poetry and plays. He is owned by three cats.

 

Pasir Ris: Time Locked

Kendrick Loo

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.

Kendrick Loo, 21, is an undergraduate in Scotland studying English and management. His poetry attempts to examine the memories of family and love.

 

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.

Pamela Seong Koon enjoys reading and video games, and has a cat called Cal. She has sold her soul to the nation and doesn't enjoy it very much, but she tries her best anyway.


 

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