Auditory Cortex / April 2018 (Issue 39)

Hungry Decades

by Ng Kum Hoon

And then and then, God came and went,
Upgraded our flats with times of sand,
Gum, anti-execution vigils, jihadists,
Unquiet royal siblings to ban.
And then and then, above us all
Still stands the law, as Middle Kingdom says
With a straight face when Weiwei falls.
Theocrats and judges chop with no flaw—
You question them, you taste the paw.
(Brachistochrone! Bernoulli cried,
You know the lion but by its claw...)
Can we don't finish this chilli crab?
This stick-cum-carrot-cum-same-old-crap.
They can't be bothered to lie to us better—
That is by far the hardest slap.
The squeakiest path to learn statecraft
Is Dad-so-dead, and not MacDuff.
What vultures within or king-becoming graces?
Gen X to Y to ZZZ or Formula One races,
All so yummy to them but... not enough.
Laugh! Laugh! The fastest curves towards the bottom
Got to be a winter followed by autumn.
From holy ghosts sprout such fandoms,
Too wide, too quaint, too masochistic to fathom.
And when and when you're earth and golem,
Tell Sade again of days of Sodom.
Well, he should know—he's been to prison;
He's seen the white before the prism.
Come fly some more, my PAPillon!—or so he prays—
My beast and whore. My Babylon.

 Second Prize Winner:
Hungry Decades" by Ng Kum Hoon (Singapore)

Lian-Hee Wee's commentary: The Singapore English in this poem is so distinct, but probably only distinct to the Singaporean. It is likely that someone not from Singapore would read this and not realise the idiomaticity of “and then and then”, or the twisted rhyme of papillon and Babylon while themselves twisted in their references to the socio-political scene. The variety of references, from physics to seafood speaks also to how the Singaporean scene is one where everything from everywhere has to be slotted in place by micro-planning in the country, where the drama of not-supposedly-royal siblings unfolds with non-extant seasons. Hearing this poem performed by the poet reveals a sense of humour that might otherwise have been hard to discern. It underlines how phonology itself encodes also the poesy of the milieu from which the work germinates.
[Read other Auditory Cortex poems.]

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