Poetry / June 2014 (Issue 24)

Two Poems

by Daryl Lim Wei Jie

The Wonton Noodle Seller


Greenshirted he untangles and bunches
the yolkyellow strands unspooled on the counter
(their soft glow an intimation of the chain
that rings his neck, guarding him from demons)
and dances short of panic in his stall,
bringing fire and water to pork
and green stalks and flour, hoping
to animate again the flavours
his father found. Steam burningly soaks
his brow, the chilies sliced invade
his eyes, sweat commingles to acid
with his tears —

                     — and still he dances on,
prayers surging to the altar above
where his parents flank a dog-deity,


She comes to me when I sink, faint
into the softness of the night,
my back skewered by dull spears
my arms the last embers of the day.

Her tresses are yellow, a haunting blonde
I boil them as we make love
too soft and away she turns her face
too hard and no words will stem her tears.

When I do it right she presses her lips
(redder than roast pork or chili)
against my own and I awake to taste
a dream dissipating on my tongue.


To swallow a cloud
feels like this:

o lightness
o light

o o

then a nothing
that compels a craving

you will search your soup
for more, finding none

and look to him with eyes
pleasureglazed, worshipful

wishing you could take him home
but for the goldhaired lady

the one with noodles for her hair
her kiss a broth yet unbrewed.

An Argument for Chinese Folk Religion

Who needs these clockwork certainties
which sugar-cane-press green gleaming souls
to force from fibres the sweet juice of guilt?

Who needs soul-butter and shame
and rock concerts hymned everlastingly
to the blackmailing father above?

Why not —
the mixed-up shifting deities
with animal and androgynous masks
who examine no exact intentions:
businesslike they consider — and inhale.

Because —
your fathers worshipped them when miles from home
they pondered uncomprehending the rains,
the pale princes, the frowning arcs of trees
and huddled blood-vow-bound in attap temples.

Therefore —
trade joss and roast duck for fortune-eased life
lion dance away last year’s bad luck
tuck the talisman behind clear plastic
and never forget to ask for numbers.
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