Chase away the shadows
The clock can pick its victims elsewhere
I sit, little frame, bare neck,
On a little wooden chair, fingering flowers
White, which I think mourn most delicately
Their petals slowly widening and softening
In the shimmer of morning that fills all this space
With a fresh ache
I know not what to make
Of these moments of sudden weakness
As though my insides have
Suddenly gone soft
With a wish for someone to touch
My forehead, my neck
And with the feeling of my mouth swarthed
With a name I cannot remember
Perhaps call it Love, or Time
Perhaps it is the name of your hands, hands that
Hold the universe
Coming to the garden to sweep me
Into an embrace
Scattering pink and white blossoms
Or perhaps it is the name of the feeling
Of seeing a lover come through the door with a warm smile
And a paper bag full of freshly bound books
and sweet buns for the table
Regardless of these dreams,
The morning will pick its own context
Perhaps today it will give
Spring yellows and cotton skirts
And flowers abloom out the window and
My heart? Illiterate
It cannot wander too long
We know love only by the names we give it
Now the clink of the teapot, the click of my shoes
And your gentleness, like the steady flutter of
A butterfly’s wings
Carry me out into the meadows and the woods
Intense fragility of a flower
This multiplicity of nodes and
Density of lines –
An infinite grid structuring each
subtle rise and fall
These bones are all stubborn barrenness
Yet they do not collapse
In the darkness my fingers
knead the rounds of my joints
And count the longs of my ribs
I can make no constellations
Of the lights within me
These stars that blink, like dots, surface to centre
I am but a little bundle
of loss and longing
Wanting to feel my body
Close to me
But see, the light begins to shine from beyond the door
Calling me to remember these things:
From fragmentation comes wholeness
From turmoil comes peace
I am shattered, but I also heal
After all, I am still dreaming
In silver shards and bright doors
After all, I am still standing
I am still breathing
On Monday I went to view The Little Prince Art Collection up on display at The Fullerton. The collection consists of 14 sculptures crafted after the illustrations in the book. The sculptures were really pretty and true to the illustrations. I felt quieted walking amongst them, lifted into the vast, contemplative, star-filled universe of Saint-Exupery’s imagination. There’s something peaceful and childlike about all his drawings and writings – and I guess it is that simplicity and sincerity that makes the story of The Little Prince all the more endearing and moving to people living in the complicated world of today.
Now I feel like trying to read Night Flight again.
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”
The Little Prince sculptures will be on display in Singapore at the Fullerton Hotel until 31st May 2015.
In the first few days after summer began, I spent a lot of time walking aimlessly about, struggling to figure things out in my mind and feeling a little confused inside.
During one of these drifting afternoons I stumbled upon an exhibit entitled The Days that We Wonder/Wander – a display of works revolving around the themes of journeying and mental dilemmas.
The installations were calming somehow. There were lots of silvery, shattered things, representing fragmented mental processes. I saw words and images that emboldened and dazzled and enveloped, and I think these things will stay with me a for a long while.
That day, I thought about the way our minds shimmer and shift and shatter, the days that we spend wandering inside ourselves trying to understand, the ways that we all reach for balance and stability, control and safety, coherence and perfection.
It’s rather like standing in a dark night on snowy ground after a snowstorm has passed, watching the stars fall one by one from the sky, filled with a sense of brokenness and a little bit of boldness, a willingness somehow to shine bright if only with fragments. And the heart wrenching words of Sylvia Plath come to me again: why am I given / These lamps, these planets / Falling like blessings, like flakes / Six-sided, white / On my eyes, my lips, my hair / Touching and melting, Nowhere.
Dual/Duel by Zen Teh
Summer came a few days ago, with me not quite knowing what to feel about it or want from it. I had been trapped inside myself for so long that I only knew how to be numb and confused.
Pawing through my own insides for the feelings I was supposed to have only created more questions and made me nervous, so I decided I would simply live as the moment dictated.
In between lunch and dinner dates I wander around on my own, trying to let every thought and perception touch my mind as lightly as possible. I reflect on the months that have passed, trying to reconcile myself to what has happened.
It’s possible to strive so much for control that you simply lose control. Perhaps that is what obsession means.
Everything happened so suddenly this year. It started with an inexplicable feeling of inner unsettledness, a feeling of something always running in the background of my mind, and I remember just feeling very tired all the time.
And then there came the empty weeks, lengths of free time in which I sunk into torrents of endless thought, letting the hours turn into days and weeks while I sat panicking and unable to get anything done. The more I thought, the more I felt confused, and the harder I fought to regain a sense of balance and coherence. In the end I completely lost both, along with my sense of place and my sense of self. And in the end, I was no longer sure what I had been trying to protect in the first place. I had become a shell of myself, barely human. And still, like an overturned bicycle with wheels still whirring, I couldn’t stop.
I wandered around aimlessly, sometimes anxious, other times weighed down by a blanket of emptiness that was about as close as I got to comfort. Other people seemed to me to be shining, while I felt my own presence dim and shrivel inside.
It’s warm and breezy outdoors. Everywhere on the streets and in shops windows are the colours of summer– fuchsia and turquoise, orange and yellow. I remember looking at a colourful display a few nights before and suddenly feeling like I wanted to put lots of flowers in my hair. It was one of the first times I remember myself wanting to do something for summer, and it made me shake a little inside.
Sometimes in my head I write letters, conveying these little thoughts or little victories to people far away, or not so far away. In reality, the value of these little moments is not easy to convey. But I carry an envelope with some letter paper in my backpack anyway, in case I suddenly feel like trying.
These days I’m feeling the waters recede. Almost, almost, I’m breaking the surface. I’m learning to breathe again, finding that I can. On the way home, the sound of the train soothes me as I lean by the coach doors, and I feel the warm six o’clock light wash over me from the window.
As I walk home everything smells green and warm. Birds chirp and fly from tree to rooftop. I feel like I can almost sink into the golden light behind the clouds. Almost there.
Sometimes at home I find little pieces of paper lying around. On them, scrawled in my own handwriting, are words like “Focus. Just breathe. Everything is alright”. I remember writing these things, and scratching them out, and re-writing them again, and again. Calming myself down didn’t work if I did it in words, because I could never get the words right. The words were always wrong. Even the simplest things had to be tweaked and rewritten over and over again. Why were the words always wrong?
I tear up these little papers and throw them away when I find them. It’s unfortunate. I know the words tried hard for me. I just couldn’t let them be enough.
It’s never enough.
Sitting by the fountain today, watching the light glint on the silvery surfaces of surrounding buildings, it occurred to me that our strengths can never be separated from our weaknesses. They are actually but one and the same.
“Hello, tiny star
Can you hear me call?
I’m so blind as everything at birth
If I could flow against these nights
Straighter than the string of light
I would lay these hands on time”
Under a shield of palm leaves
Enveloped in night cool
Hear the soft tinkle
Of fresh dripping dew
Touched by gentle
Orange lamplight glow
How nice it would be to walk
Beside another soul
Who can predict how harrowing
The break of dawn may be?
Beneath the moon, jasmine and primrose
Open and sigh with night’s relief