No. 9


Paul Tan  


The shallots I peel,
Squatting in the kitchen,
Are coloured like bruises. 
The square of light
On my silent, blank cellphone
(Mumís throw-me-down)
I infuse with yearning.
Will he call? No one must know.

Mrs Tan:
The curry on the fire
Is spiced with memory;
(Rosa works so slow!)
The child I never had
Celebrates a birthday
Nobody remembers.
My tongue singes in absence;
The kettle sings shrilly.

The missus calls about 
Dinner at such 
Inopportune moments.
This marriage in its nth year
Makes my neck creak;
Gentle Pei Pei here knows 
why Iím unhinged; 
how best to sweetly sooth.

Pei Pei:
What benefactors I have
I calculate, I cultivate. 
(This Mr John tips badly!).
But the passage here 
To this sweaty island
Costs plenty of yuan;
And this the dream
Weíre allowed to burnish.

Xiao Wei:
Mama is not home yet.
She mutters about China;
I sing myself to sleep.
Homework is all squiggles.
At recess time, they laugh 
And lah their way as 
They dunk my shaved head;
I cannot breathe.

Itís dog-eat-dog,
The rule of the land.
Standing apart, or 
Worse, simpering kindness, 
is despicable. Apologise
For what I cannot control?
Ha, this gameís gotta be played out 
Till the screen goes blank.

Mr Lim:
My son, sullen at the window,
Stares the stars down.
The glare of bills is blinding;
Numbers chorus to be heard.
Trapped at home, I fear them
(Damn bastards still employed)
Masked, waiting with bloody 
Paint, superglue, animal heads.




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