Poetry / October 2018 (Issue 41: Writing Singapore)

The Fall

by Theophilus Kwek

Marching before dawn. Heat rises in haggard lines
as the earth, the colour of ash, moves to hold us.

                         On the road, a cloud. The colour of ash, felled cloud,
                         an immaculate thing. The earth moves. A breath.

You see it first. Distant, then suddenly here. A breath:
the body of a bird, small felled thing, cloud of ash.

                         Our two lines part. The body of a bird, it moves us,
                         even in death. Distant, suddenly seen. A thing of breath.

Something about death. We know our parts, lines,
move without falling. Distance, heat, cloud, ash—

                         but no, rituals are for later. First, you see it. Dawn colour,
                         ragged heat, and what is earth becoming breath—

fallen: still immaculate. Cloud body, cloud breath.
Dawn as a line of flight. Not earth. Nor death,

                         the raggedness of it. Suddenly your own small heat
                         becomes ash, falls as cloud. Wetting the earth,

immaculate as dawn, night’s breath. The road
marches on, unmoved by this heat, this death,

                         the suddenness of it. Hold this: the small body
                         of a bird, of ash. All that is seen rises as breath.


i.m. PTE Dave Lee Han Xuan, who died on 30th April, 2018 after injuries sustained on a fast march.
ImageTheophilus Kwek has published five volumes of poetry, most recently The First Five Storms (2017), which won the New Poets' Prize. He came Second in the Stephen Spender Prize in 2016, and is shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize this year. He is currently based in Singapore as a writer and researcher on history, migration and other issues, and his poems and essays have appeared in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, The Irish Examiner, and the Asian Review of Books, among other platforms. He serves as Co-Editor of Oxford Poetry and Editor-at-Large for Singapore at Asymptote.
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