InBetweenASecondTick

Poems, prose, and other strangeness

NaPo 8.

Listlessly drawing circles on paper
Wiry dancing bubbles, bouncing balls
behind printed cages another dimension behind
procrastination’s a funny window to look through
listless ink, listless pen
scrawled underneath unfinished poetry

I wish a better life for undone poetry
incomplete, inflated with too much variation
I pondered over word choice overlong
(or was ‘extended’ better?)
I hope they dance alive
in ways I could never do with these fingers
somewhere happier.

NaPo 7.

Open door, open floor,
open arms, siren charms
Ancient voyage, long ago
Here the sailor’s mind sinks low
Unravelling; deeper still
Between, betwixt the hemispheres
You should know what sailors fear
The wall of waves, the teeth of sea
that sank their thin fangs into thee
And left him stranded, ocean drunk
(clutching at the barkeep’s junk).

NaPo 6.

Said the physics geek to his love,
“I love you like the electron loves the proton.
I will always be near you, somewhere.
You might say I’m trapped in your orbit.
And though some days it might feel
like I’m never there, only the cloud, the possibility of me,
The moment you measure me, there I will be.”

“You might say we’re different, but opposites attract, don’t they?
Let them sing songs about falling into someone like gravity,
about how they can’t jump without falling.
Gravity wants to bodies to stick, stuck
I’d rather my own space.
Between us, we’ve got stronger bonds than they could ever dream.”

“Some days, inexplicably, I’ll jump away from you
as if in a flash, and retreat to my private spaces
farther away. But please don’t fret,
I’ll return. Some days you’ll feel like your love is so much bigger than mine.
Trust our experiences, though we differ in size, our attraction is equal.”

“When too many of my guy friends come over
for example, on D&D night, I know our moods turn negative,
and when my female acquaintances stop by,
you’ve got your eye-on them (I’m positive).
So maybe it’s best for us to be alone together,
because that’s when our love’s the definition of atomic.”

NaPo 5.

He woke up tired/sad
to the same damp/wet pillow. Cool in this light
Avoided/Ignored the empty side.
In the shower, with his eyes closed/shut
he opened the wrong bottle and smelled her for a moment.
She bought the old/frayed black tie
back then.

At the funeral, one last/final time
he thought about how peaceful/still she looked
Her mother sobbed/cried.
Her sister was too angry/enraged to stand in front
But he, he didn’t know what to feel.

NaPo 4.

When he left he was winter
Cold drafts blew in when he walked
through closed shutters, through shut doors
she thought herself foolish, imagining things
went to bed with socks, under two sets of blankets
(they hadn’t slept together in months)
she started finding puddles on their marble floor
set her accidental soles rippling through miniature mirrors,
tiny ponds. She worried her tears were leaking.
At meals, he asked why everything tasted cold
if he spoke at all, it sounded like wind chill
like diamonds on your eyelids
Ice crept up his roots as he slept
Prematurely grey, she told him it was a sign of maturity
One night she woke up with a full bladder and an empty heart
and found the trail from the bed to the bathroom,
his trail. Footprints in snow.
She turned off the light and walked in the dark.

In the morning he was gone
And all, all her tears melted.

NaPo 3.

I have never
seen man or girl or wild, untamed beast
frozen in place, or drenched cloth
wrapped around silhouettes
in any block of temporary earth
in vein of granite, marble, lime or sand
stones for eyes, all I ever see is
black or white, and flickering screen
my sculptures gallop behind the precursor
fingers fit for a board. No chisel or mallet
taps away. I do not wear down until it shines from within.
I breathe deep till it flows out without.

dissatisfied but tired, I’d rather end this here and get some sleep. A reminder that these daily poems are bound to be inconsistent in quality, depending on how much time a day I get to write. These are also less likely to be edited during the month, because the point of writing so many, I believe, is to force quantity, and in doing so, temper the tools in the smithy.

NaPo 2.

The child was born at pinnacle of day
At highest noon her first cries filled the air
A stratospheric bloom of sonic flare
That trickled down the blue, upon the grey

She learned to walk upon a cumulus
So every fluffy fall caused laughter loud
The stumbling child towards her mother’s cloud
And mother’s lips that whispered “walk with us”

They met the girl that scattered with the wind
Who held no earthly warmth except her wisps
And yet who carried every flying kiss:
From lover’s breath to lover’s heart-home pinned.

They met the twin who played the thunder’s drums
His voice alone a rumbling thunder shrunk
To fit the muscled limits of his chest
Which pounded out the warning “Storm is come”

They met the twin who sparked the lightning’s light
Two hardened rocks of cloud and all his might
Alone produced the spark that lit the sky
A gleaming dagger piercing through the night

They walked until her earthly restful place
Where youth laid down so old could watch her sleep
And wondered on through mirrored hallways deep
And wake when mother’s rays warmed on her face.

A whisper. A wisp from her.

‘Horizons halve the world: low and above
Yet every sky can scarce hold mother’s love.’

NaPo 1.

And so it begins. Bare tumultuous earth rises
mammoth ridges shudder and crack
like a carpet of eggshells boiling over the coal
he dances over them, his gait is rhythmic
tribal drums blare a thump thump
crease of bone where head meets spotted neck,
spotted black, spotted red bled rivulets,
rivers, enough to swim, enough to burn
flecking pale eggshells underfoot: behold the first abstract artist.
The smoke plumes, ground meets sky and mushrooms
flicks spores through his lungs, takes their rough with them
Turns his chest to organic paint

He dances, he sings, he paints
his life boils beneath him, then above
and when he falls, out of breath
out of bone, out of lung
he has become the fire.

It’s funny to think about journeys. I started this wordpress to put down the poems I wrote for last year’s NaPoWriMo, and I’m glad I did. It was through those poems that I started watching more spoken word performances on YouTube, which was how I started listening to Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay. And when I heard they were coming to Singapore, Allee and I went for their show at Home Club, which was how I was introduced to the spoken word poetry scene in Singapore, and Word Forward, and all the amazing, incredible friends and poets through the monthly slams. And in about a month’s time, Allee and I will be in a show together. Featuring us. And other bands. And it’ll be happening on three different days. And it’s so big and immense that I’m surprised where we are. It’s incredible. And it started with a simple, month-long challenge to write poetry. Didn’t matter if it was good poetry or bad poetry, it was poetry.

 

I like journeys.

The Relative Safety of Metaphor-Making

(A spoken word poem, first performed at the National Poetry Slam on 20/07/2013, hosted by the amazing Word Forward as part of Lit Up 2013)

The Relative Safety of Metaphor-Making

The art of metaphor is to take the thing you want to talk about,
point at something completely different, and say
“This is what I mean.”
So when I say that metaphors are like gloves to me
I mean that they are what I use to handle the things
that I am not quite ready to deal with yet;
the things still too heart-hot for me to touch
with my bare skin.

My grandfather’s name is Bob,
and to him, it means the Germanic root word
Robert, meaning glory and bright,
but to me,
it means the up-and down movement of a body in water
the bobbing of an object in a current,
except by object, I mean his moods
and by current, I mean his emotions
The way he would swing from violent rage
to abysmal sadness,
When the depression and paranoia set in
After he lost his eyesight
And his whole damn world just didn’t feel right.

And I wish that I could feel his first edition leather-bound binding
But all I have ever know is this crinkled and worn
Wrinkled and torn
Battered Grimoire.

And no matter how much I want to
I will never hear his words the way he means to speak them
Fresh from the printing
Pressed ink, black on white
That stark contrast.
My dad tells me he spoke
With a Diction and an Elocution
That would put most newscasters to shame
But now, all of his words come dog-eared
Yellowed with mould
Smudged, pressed in
Ink from the facing page
(This is what happens when you pack too many skeletons into your closet)

Now, all of his words come slurred
And there are awkward
Pauses from where he stops to think
And I don’t know if I’m hearing his first stroke,
Or his second
Or maybe this is just what ancient sounds like
Maybe age adds a gravity to your words
Maybe every time he told a lie,
There was a little knot of weight that he tied
Around his tongue
That only got heavier those insomniac nights
When he tried to swallow it down
Call it a family secret if you want,
it doesn’t make it any less
Massive; doesn’t make it any less
Crushing.

Until the morning came that madness broke free
And cut all the ropes
Snipped all the lines to the anchors
And that weight came hurtling out of his mouth at terminal velocity
Shattering the panes of glass in this house
Except by glass, I mean the way his mind and memories shattered
And by pane, I mean the hollow thing I felt inside my chest
As the shards of spittle and vitriol
Came stabbing into my eardrums
Came stabbing into me
It didn’t matter what delirium held the knife
It still left lines on my heart

And this is the part of the story
That I am never able to finish telling
Because I have not yet come up with enough protective analogies
That this is safe for me.
Except to say that this boy wishes he could read
Without getting
All of these papercuts.

Swimming.

A very great man, Ernest Hemingway, once said that “there is nothing to writing, you just sit at your typewriter and bleed.”

When I was young my parents used to take me swimming.
Every week we’d drive up,
park the car under the red love seed trees
run up those two flights of stairs
past the faded brick walls
into the air conditioned room
where I would dive into other people’s blood.

My mother was quick to make sure I started on the shallow end

“This is Jack.
This is Jill.
This is Spot.
Spot is Jill’s dog.
See Spot run!”

My father was quick to make sure I started on the shallow end
(I have seen his bookshelves.
He has swam far down
felt the murky darkness surrounding him
pounding against his eardrums.
He has slapped the palm of his hand against the bottom
then pushed his way up to the surface.
He knows the deep.)

And they didn’t know it then, but they were my first dealers.
Somewhere along the line, as fingertips brushed lines of ink,
something began to sink in,
through the pores of my skin,
something began to seep into myself.
Our weekly visits became my weekly fix,
and you should have seen my eyes the first time I found out
(GASP!) YOU CAN BORROW THEM?!

So on those Sunday afternoon car rides back home,
my mother would hold my 4 allotted containers
of typeset hemoglobin to the light.
She would shake them,
watch the liquid coalesce in shades of grey,
and judged for herself how far I was swimming.
And when her son started swimming
further from the shoreline,
into dangerous depth,
she held her breath
as if it were her head
that was submerged underneath the waves,
as if it were her head
that wanted,
that needed
to swim in deeper darkness.

And now, now I am a junkie,
if the copy of China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun
and Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler
sitting in my bag are any indication.
And now, I am a junkie,
if the tower of books stacked up on my bedside table is any sort of sign.
And now, I am a junkie,
and I don’t think I’ll ever have enough.
If you’ve ever finished a series
and felt the pang of something sound in your chest
at the lives of fictional characters that came
from someone else’s brain,
then maybe you know how I feel.
All I know is that someday my house will be a library,
regardless of whether there are enough shelves.

My parents taught me how to bleed,
until the day came that I could start bleeding on my own.

Well it’s been a while since I’ve updated here, but don’t worry! I’m still writing, quite a fair bit actually. Just that I haven’t put them up here. This poem, Swimming, was written for the June Poetry Slam at BluJaz cafe (which, if you didn’t know, is a monthly poetry slam organized by Word Forward, a superawesome organization supporting and giving publicity to the poetry scene in Singapore. The theme was ‘Geek’, and I felt like my love for words started with a certain amount of geeking out about libraries :p

 

(side note, I personally feel this poem works better spoken than read, but YMMV.)

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