Writers Abroad II
Poetry from Singapore
Outside, the city recedes to an echo of itself.
Emptiness is divided again between us.
And I love the beginnings of toes
From where I am. I see your knees, blunted
Peaks of faraway mountains. Returning
As babies, our bed turns into a cradle
We shall never stop rocking.
As many levels of nakedness as there are
Love – first, your toes, the centre of you
Where you stay me with your snapped hands
Upon my head, as if to beg: not ready, not yet,
Before relenting – how an extreme proximity
To a pure disappearance erases all doubt –
Our mouths merging into a blind continuous
Tunnel from inside your body into mine.
We watch the clock with its nervous
flight of seconds, night peeling
away like a bandage from the wide open
wound of a city, a light wind leaning
close to the window, whispering love,
love; lying there along each other
like parallel banks, slow breathing
a deep, slender river through
the space between our bodies, which once
we left behind to dance beyond the periphery
of even time; rain singing at the roof
our first memory of the world.
I return often to that memory:
silence sneaking us out of our bodies,
to dwell upon, feeling
everything at once.
Long after words had shaped an intimacy
in the afternoon, smiles on our faces
heroic as scars, each of us retelling
the same lie about love
on the couch in the living room, before
relenting, by evening, to the floor’s advances.
And truth was a natural disaster
that took place simply but somewhere else,
your parents on the brink of return;
that threat of discovery
at which desire is intensified, rendered
more fragile or
Now, the same truth
separately – what we keep insisting
to be truth: the meaninglessness
of any life – as it did once,
in our different corners of the planet.
Our cages, at least, are still similar.
we may turn to stone if
a door is opened, casually
and without malice.
I close my textbooks
And watch a tree in the garden
Demonstrate free will: rooted,
It can only sway.
My mother is still.
She looks strangely
As the living-room floor,
As the day bends
Backwards without her.
White Of The Paper
When a child
paints with adjectives
colour, the sky
is pale, vague
veil of blue,
while a tree faintly
embraces the sun
stark in the picture’s
center like a heart.
points out the transparency
of the backdrop
to those verbs of branches
the sun’s yellow full-
stop, but catching
its spokes in their fingers.
looks up at her and
points out the dried-out
pods of hue at her feet,
while in the unfinished
span of field, eyes
are opening in green;
observe the extent
of any in-
of paper bursting
through a metonymy
of clouds, singing
a chorus of void.
My parents go to church every Sunday,
buoyed by that weightless certainty
they call faith. Atheist that I
claim to be, perhaps my faith in love
is its own religion, its variations
like movements in the longest piece
of orchestral music, a fear of loss
repeated like a leitmotif throughout
our private histories. And maybe,
like god, love is an inaudible song
that is heard only by that third ear
pricking open inside our heads,
heard during the return of a urgent
embrace, an angel’s quietly sung
bass note sending almost im-
perceptible vibrations through the air,
stirring alive those curtains on either
side of the night-hollowed window.
At this moment, I may almost begin
to decipher the unwritten score
underlying the here and now, coolly
dictating the tempo of those pages
of clouds turning over this house –
at first piu lento, then adagio –
or the timed pauses between each
breath of the man unawake beside me,
a blueprint behind the harmony
of our contrapuntal sighs in the dark.