Fairy dreaming

white

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

Everywhere

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

Bright doors 

 
Think about the 

Intense fragility of a flower  

This multiplicity of nodes and 

Density of lines – 

An infinite grid structuring each 

subtle rise and fall 

In surface 

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 

The Little Prince at The Fullerton

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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 . . .”

***

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The Little Prince sculptures will be on display in Singapore at the Fullerton Hotel until 31st May 2015.

The days that we wander/wonder

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. 

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Dual/Duel by Zen Teh

For friends in Singapore, The Days that We Wander/Wonder is at Jurong Regional Library until 20th May, and is held in collaboration with CHAT.

Lost in thought

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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.

***

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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.

***

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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”

For Now

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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

Rain City

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I spent the early part of the afternoon after my paper sitting on some concrete steps in a shopping centre, nibbling a taiyaki ice cream. The place was cavernous, deep-based and high-ceilinged, with a gaping entranceway sealed with a screen of rain.

A fantastic lightning storm was going on outside by the time I decided to head home. On the way to the train platform I stopped to look over the canal, with its gushing torrents of brown water. I watched a bottle get stuck, hitting against the slope of the channel repeatedly before finally being washed rapidly downstream. A yellow construction worker’s hat came by, floating like an overturned turtle shell, slowly sinking beneath the surface as water splashed over its edges. And that’s life, I thought to myself. I took in a deep breath as a cool breeze blew in my face.

Getting off the train, I walked by the street to the bus stop, feeling the white spray against my ankles and my face, like a million tiny crystallized butterfly souls. Reflected in the rain were the vague colours of quiet and disquiet, the orange of windows and the reds and greens of traffic. I imagined behind its screen a thousand butterflies hiding sleepily in secret places – Little gems of confidence, roosting quietly in every corner.

 

Quiet

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The river in the morning – it surprised me as I emerged from the cool, shadowy interior of the Esplanade and met with the river bay. The water is different in the morning light. In the softness of it, one can take in the whole expanse of the water at once – wide and shimmering, blue and clear.

The Starbucks at the Boathouse was empty and smelled of wood and rope and coffee. The past few days I have begun to feel a little more right with the world – I’m better able to keep calm and curb my unproductive hyper-analyses, and I feel like less of a stranger to myself.

Tomorrow we begin our papers. We’ll grasp with our hands those fragile structures of words we call rules, watch the way they come together and fall apart when faced with the irony and whimsy of daily life. And I’ll think of the way thoughts drift through our minds, each one as delicate as a snowflake in its random beauty. Think of the way it can overwhelm when out of control, in torrents of white.

Tread softly, softly, through words, through thought, through the little worlds you move through by the push and pull of language. And always, stay bright.