singaporean subject-matter

here. I will give you

a job, of answering questions

and fixing some things and

splashing some red and white

paint while not destroying

the lion, altogether



when do we toe the lines,

between greyscale latitude

and the silky length of colour,

stained by curry, drained

to a hue-subdued, by neighbours

who paste calligraphy on insipid

walls? no,


we do not speak of that any-

more — do we scratch off the characters

that spell out jia, spittle from

the uncle’s teeth yellowed from

savoury, brows darkened with ire; we

talk about how the dirt under his finger-

nails, is the eye that dots our Chinese. yes,


we turn monologue spiels from our head,

and let guilt claw them to life,

pluming around the garden of flowery

words that document the hefty crafting

of a plan to accept; our blogs become weapons

as we catalogue some dialogue session

to sow wet seeds of harm-ony and

throw dry seeds of harm into the sun –

we were there watching when its

rays became a pale pole of worry

in the long night. don’t you talk about

this now, t-this r-right

n-now, don’t you


remember how we once forgot

about the sun because the moonlight

that stroke the broken window pane

was enough to cast the roads in

shadow, stroking the shard

of window

g-gently after the bottle had caught

it first and torn it out of its place

in the frame. no,


it took us a dark studio and duct

tape to dig the roses out of our eyes,

throw the rosy-sheen from our lives

and shed light on the jaundice

blooming amongst the planes of our cheek

bones, because realization doesn’t

bring us to light but casts us in candle-wax

-dripping shadow that hurts when touched, hurts

when approached, hurts when recognised. yes,


we are privileged to live among these walls,

palms flat against the cauldron, this hearty

stew lacking heart, our heads imploding

with chicken-stock and chicken-feet

and our bodies slung carelessly over

the spherical shape of a fish-ball; no,


do not continue to stir the soup. do not

mix without seasoned precision or

hints of understanding or pour into

-broth that haunted empathy until you

capture the myth floating through

the hairs of a gang gong and touch its

head with a ladle, though yes,


it will recoil, you must not stop

irritating it until an orange-essence

is birthed from this storied-myth; grasp

its head out and twist until it is freed

from the yolk of the past, the

rain from our July parade trickling

on its skin. no,


the job is not over,

for we are still sitting

here, floating along the orange

ocean, toes pointed, back arched,

fingers aching and the ache of

the sun in the back of our heads. boy,

girl, boiling under the sky

as we recite the pledge, yes,


I think you know the words,

I think you know they know the

words, but look carefully and see

who’s hand curves calmly

into the curvature of chest and linen

and school badge, and who’s

sore thumb sticks out,

like a flagrant knot in the rope

of the flag that now needs to

be danced upon by fingers before

it shivers into place along the metal

pole. no swelling,


you have untangled its ropes,

you have untangled the

myth from the hairs

of the vegetable in the

soup, you have

ladled out the people in

orange sweat and had them bob

along with their hands over their hearts,

but you have not cradled the lion’s

head, looked directly into its eyes,

and – let me tell you –


no, it will not be easy, what I

want you to do next – what you have to

do next – you have not yet poked

wooden slats, ants’ stilts,

chopsticks, into its eyes. for

wooden splinters will wrestle out

the gentle rustle of myopia,

moulding on the leaves that

feather the people.



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