Tag Archives: poems

Space on spica

I woke up to space on spica
Soft frills on my shoulder
The window behind the curtain
pretending to be a square

Light is darting like a bee
My shirt is on backwards and
clothes are here and there fallen
like petals in spring

There are bags of yesterday’s stuff
And yesterday’s stuff is full of
the stuff of its yesterday
I am not sure how to disgorge them

There are three glass bottles, empty
The phone is buzzing, distressed
My stomach is turning heavily
like an empty sea.

The sky is as white as skin
The tree tops spread like mossy clouds
There is a light in my head,
a marble in my mouth

But wait, what was the question?


the legal scholar

How many times have we ascended this hill
Noting the position of swans, the level of the pond’s lap
on wet grass, the straw hats of tourists like slow revolving UFOs.
Bags crammed with paper, we seek some kind of knowledge,
or just direction or companionship or whatever,
I don’t know. This is the first paradox.

This is the canon of the judges. Hammer by hammer,
each fact weighed, developing rules, rules,
we try to peel them back, to see what light existed
in the minds of the ages – treat your neighbour as yourself,
use your land so as not to harm another’s, and do not
deceive those who are rely on you. It is despicable.

Truths: People believe in property because
they need to feel they belong. They make promises
because of fear and rely on people who say pretty things
because nothing hurts like hunger in the heart.
Here is a pen, a paper, make your prayer.
Do you need a lawyer?

In the yellow glow of books, I study the day’s facts,
Extract the rules of being me. A dog knows it’s a dog.
A cat must feel like a cat. But I have no conception of myself.
I sieve the day’s words into the effective and the not.
Was I brief, concise, thoughtful and clear?
I just want to know for sure that I can be heard.

Across the script of my books, I trace circles
waiting desperately to see if the ends will meet
so that there will be no ending, only completeness.
These catchments are little worlds – yours, mine, his, hers.
I want to make them integrate but no matter what I do
The words are only fragments, they cannot form wholes

These are the dreams from which I ought to awaken

In the deep fissures a tide of blood,
Seizures of colour in canvassed eye,
These are the dreams I bring to life

Even the sky of this city is glass
I shine in shards, glitter cracks under my feet
These are the dreams of the world in which I lived

I bang doors, topple drawers, rooms fill with paper
My mind is ABC soup, I despair at the scatter
These are the dreams that I created

Rain falls, black coal on leaves,
The circle of bark crackles, the shouts of trees
These are the dreams from which I ought to awaken

Skin lines blur into watery mud-brown,
Crown of wave and blanket of trough
These are the dreams I keep drifting down

In the city across the river there is a reflection of me
Stringing together words and other pretty things
These are the dreams of my soul deep and free

Spider web of sweat on my pillowcase
Yesterday’s self peeling from my paper-thin skin
These are the dreams from which I cannot awaken

Every memory a fire, river burns with blood weight
Angel wings tinged with Monet’s pink, sky breaking bread
These are the dreams which are already gone away

Indigo afternoon

You can still see the indigo colony, the little
Masked folk mingling at the foot of the bed
With ogling eyes uneasy as the sea
Under this moon, rubbing her rabbit-filled eyes
Pulsating irregularly

Catapulted across the reaches, the quantum moon
Globes anew in fresh lightscape
I cloak myself circular, thinking that this is
The third room I have awoken in in
Three months. My particles are all skip.

Submerged in hypnopompic water I still expect
To open my eyes to a different window
To hear the boom of concrete, the thin whine
Of alleys, to feel the blaze
Of naked sky, noontime at dawn

Instead, when I peel back the curtains
There is only a gentle green dance and
Neat bricks that make no sound
The rooms here do not shake and I did not
Step off an airplane 5 hours ago: It is all in my head

In me and out there


As the train transits across the city sky
I feel rather like I am floating, blue and bright
past the tumble and tangle of rooftop and wire
through the endless echo of light

The streets I have wandered in are but a fingertip
in a city that stretches across for arms lengths
I hear your dismay in my ear
asking, “How do you make sense of this?”

I waver towards the driver’s doors
as around me the empty cabins dissolve
into light, scattering across the sky
And I fast forward in time

And there is me ten years from now,
waking up to a table of light
glimmering on yesterday’s unfinished words
in the same bright room I have slept in, alone, for years
But suddenly in a completely
different place

I stand there, wondering where to search
to find this that is slipping out of my fingers
Perhaps I will find you in the very last cabin
or perhaps somewhere in between the lines
In me and out there,
nowhere and everywhere.

The words came to me as I rode the JR lines through Tokyo, particularly on those sunny days where if you were on board at the right time, you would see light flooding into the cabin through the windows. After a long period of rain, sunlight is always startling, as was my realisation about just how expansive this city actually is.



“For what separates dawn from dusk is day
And what separates joss from ash is respect
And what separates you from me is time
And if you lose even the memories
Then we will truly be apart”
– from Separation by Daren Shiau


I remember that twilight hour. I had emerged from a small bookstore where I had been browsing through Daren Shaiu’s Peninsula whilst broodily negotiating an online sale. It had been a long day.  Earlier I had walked through the bright green compound of Dempsey Hill visiting art galleries, along the way stumbling upon big wire cages full of noisy parrots and a dreamy green pond with fishes the size of small sharks. I had a difficult time in Anna Berezovskaya’s exhibit. It was all so beautiful and whimsical and other-worldly, yet I struggled to immerse myself in it fully because I couldn’t stop wrestling with myself in my mind. The second exhibit (Zhu Yan Chun’s The Substance Series) returned me to mountain paths and natural pigments, and I breathed easier.

 [The day’s clippings]
In the glow of early evening the meandering lanes of Duxton road had me scaling a hill and passing the entrance to a small park where I met a big cat, a miniature tiger-like creature.

I lingered a while in Monica Duxton’s exhibit- A Universal Truth, feeling soothed by light and space. When I stepped out to wander again, I looked at all the corridors and windows a little differently. A universal truth indeed. I also felt curiously tempted to get a drink, after a long period of ambivalence to alcohol.
Stepping out of the bookstore, I walked past shophouses to the main road which was lined with cars making their way home from the city. I felt very subdued, and a little bothered inside.

Across the road was a set of flats. Rows of disorderly bamboo laundry poles stuck out from stacks and stacks of faintly glowing squarish windows. Behind them, the dramatic silvery towers of a newer housing development jutted out like a swords. Pattern and juxtaposition. This is also poetry, I thought to myself. The mixture of lights and street sounds left me mellow and dreamy, and I felt myself suspended, like the light in the sky, between darkness and day.

After a long train ride I would arrive home, where I would make myself very upset with my verbal blunders, overanalyse the transaction I had earlier completed, attempt to clean my room, annoy those around me, and end up feeling very hurt and trapped and childish and taken advantage of.

I’m not sure how the evening ended. But once again the night would have come, dark and cool, closing the day and dividing it from the next. It used to bother me terribly, the way one day did not flow smoothly into the next like verses in a song do. It often felt like someone was taking a scissors and cutting each day and each moment off from the next.

In the end, I am not quite sure how to end the telling of this story. Perhaps I shall simply allow it to retire, close this pandora’s box of memory, creep beneath the covers. The words of Alvin Pang float to mind:

“Let waking divide
this day in which you walk
from the past
which already is less
than whisper, fainter
than a breath’s caress.”

“Make space with your words
so those who come after
may hear their own voices
in your silence, deepening.”

(From a poet is instructed by the death of his master) 

Fairy dreaming


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

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 

For Now


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