No. 8


Yeow Kai Chai   

Quarterly Report No. 6:
Ethnological Warfare Atrocity Exhibition

but for the present, it’s beyond your control. When it finally happens 
after yet another 20 minutes, the helplessness underscores the
inexorable reel of martyrdom, twirling madly in and out of love; as if 
the whole universe will now be birthed into another plastic bag, clean
as disinfectant. Round all up in a diorama. We – all of us sworn
witnesses, heart on sleeve – recall everything in a pinhole’s entirety,
only that nobody can ascertain the leading quite the same way.
Measure for measure: Deceptive blue sky, those green, green fields 
of yesteryear, then grey unforgiving rain, these clichés set up for the
perfect grime. Then what? After all the ready pool of iconography 
dries up once we need a dip. But the interrogator soldiers on, 
dangling a gallows shot and a medium rare steak oozing something 
fishy onto his mud-caked boot. Ferns, fries and creepers clasp on to
the shlubby ordinariness of it all. Soft barnacles have encrusted the
sides. Tinder sticks crack like shards and the fingers too. So vivid are
the flashes, no one notices the Velcro hornbill denting the plexiglass
chamber while the kids stand, struck by electron crossfire. The
abandoned army bunker rebuilt brick by brick from scratch. The
bouzouki starts first, the pungent skunk next as a skein of commensals
follow suit like pilgrims or syringes. In the middle of the red 
intravenous river, the hangman, hunched and ape-like, hops in with
lasso, drill and assorted tools in his pouch and asks for directions 
after the deed. The lorikeet’s shriek takes a nation’s collective silence.
Later at midnight, curled up in his office couch, the shinbone collector,
hard of hearing, is attacked a third time by visions of bugs and
bug-eyed bunnies while the death-row prisoner slips out for the
umpteenth time in between beams of dream and wrestles it all back 
on the last night. Till today, not a squeak has been heard of those
dragged away by the junta as greying Mothers of the Vanished picket
at the Plaza de Mayo on a daily basis. Till one by one, even the days
stop coming and the scene lurches into a pitch-black basin. The till 
itself gets dumped and intolerable heat eventually melts the ancient 
steel glacier off the thin joint masonry; the disarray of the portal –
ketchup streaked over the cubicle, a horse’s head placed beside your
sleepyhead, a firing pin comes unstuck – all swept away into the sea 
in a flush, leaving a white shirt in its pristine condition. A bulb goes off,
a glass-splitting screech five feet away. “As you like it,” whispers the
arsonist as he smiles and strikes a match to the composition. It’s
clearer now, and the world can start all over again without eggnog 
and carry-on baggage. Fifty years earlier, a boy who looks exactly 
like you discovers it one hazy afternoon: bits and bytes soldered to 
a heap of flesh, bolts and assorted debris accumulated over crime. 
The foundry’s door opens and shuts, some jaw snaps. That’s it.

A remora
waits at the wings
polyps inch, by inch

In The Dream-House Of Solon Gudmundsson

After a series of photographs in Moderna Museet, Stockholm. They feature 
Slunkariki, a hut by Icelandic artist Solon Gudmundsson, which was built
with corrugated iron faced in and the wallpaper out

An oblong raised from scratch…
Nail wooden planks to erect four walls.
Finish off with a sloped roof above.
Is this all a human needs?

Shelter from the elements,
they’d say. Now place a door,
and a casement window on each side.
Swinging inwards, those open

from outside, yes, Tag No. 121.
The armoire? Inner sanctum? Get out!
All are welcome, of course. As in three
quarters of the cases, the best laid

plans have a way of taking us out. Rest
assured no one in this hourly tour will be
excluded from the intimates (provided
you’re on the right shift). But don’t

look back. Depending on – what they call it? –
stream of consciousness, in between
winks or urinals, the perineum’s released
us from within; and without,

there are all these vertiginous possibilities
we talked about when we were young
and green and full of snot. Then you had
to come in and screw things up, doncha?

Sidestepping the last time it knocked
over a china vase of hydrangeas
in the presence of important guests,
time is all we’ve got. Or rather it got us.

Fair enough, the finiteness of it
makes us, arms us yet outlives all
despite its lazy, oscillating ways.
“Till the next full moon.” Good riddance,

and since precious time
has been wasted perambulating around it,
discussing it, here’s the pitch for those
on a shoestring: A long, long time ago…

(specifics are for gormless pedants),
an old man wanted to build a small,
self-contained house turned inside out.
Naturally the daft idea was waved away

by well-meaning relatives. Pinched
with concern and looking familiar,
this is understandably theirs:
“This is what happens when you get old…”

In the end: I died lonely in an old folks’ home…
Till decades later, someone’s gone
And revived it out here,
and now visitors are walking through

the nave to a golden altar on the other end,
each and every one of us appraised
like an objet d’art or a freaking queer,
as if a casket has been flipped

open, taken apart, reconstituted,
and now it contains the universe
(and vice versa), including the
sympathetic armchair you’re sitting on, 

hewn from leftover wood, chaffed pieces.
Rain metastasises into text(ure),
but mostly a dull, throbbing sentimentality
that plagues the nicest citizens

who had their tonsil removed.
trickles from dawn to dark
without advance warming,

till it comes back, cowbells chiming, 
in carolling. Luvvie parlance –
god knows we can use some of those –
oozes through a modest navel

back into the big belly of ours,
but at whose will? Something clammy
in that house of blues, something in
the craggy earth smells funny,

so what? My real estate agent gives up
fishing and goes along with a shrug.
Here, though, on the outside looking out,
the swans should expect no returns

when a makeover is so attainable.
The maitre d’ will be back with a new menu.
In the interim (a period of terrible drought),
hop from here to there, and when

there’s no more to cover, turn back
and do the same… Pity you won’t be here
when the One True Valentine
turns up unannounced during lunchtime,

but by then the shadow cabinet
will have been reshuffled.
Certain ragtag cling on, like racketeers.
Raspberries. Dead pets. Go on. Pee.
Sniff. Have a dump, hole in one. And another. 
The four corners now swept back...
revealing you in full morning glory
before the baccalaureate gets in the door.




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everything published 
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with the authors.


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