Poetry / October 2018 (Issue 41: Writing Singapore)

Three Poems

by Cyril Wong


via Melanie Klein

Riffling through pages of The Psycho
Analysis of Children, a stop-motion picture
of my country emerges, its history
of a citizenry without mystery—

Non-graduation from even the Paranoid-
Schizoid Position. Stirrings beneath the topsoil
of Depressive concentration, deeper ambivalences
that never flourished into a tree
of negative capability.

A plot without suspense
because suspended, or frozen,
between duality and transcendence.
This movie without movement—

Pebble lodged in the throat
of a tone-deaf soprano. Narrative of panic
and survival; not of winning,
as many have stated, but of losing what little
we fought to earn.

Not a kindergarten of toddlers
staring into space (Klein's
"unconscious phantasy") but children on a traffic
island, stranded, manically making a home
of homelessness

without attention to paradox
and uncertainty; to every potential
for a collective enjoyment
revealing itself as love, equanimity, and other things.


A dancer in pieces—

as uncollected,
half-forgotten truths.

The farther forest monks
retreat, the more they're sought after
by those who've found no solace
in dismembering the ego and being
totally still.

Beginning of the end;
the beginning
is the end.

Last few minutes of Tarkovsky's Solaris:
foggy, encircling waves of an alien planet
hewing to a traveller's
longing and regret—he buckles

to his knees before the father he abandoned
to embrace him
forever; forgetting
how even inside their reconstructed house,
the ceiling wept smoky tears.

No delusion too distant from the truth.
No man unmarked by another.
Nothing separate from everything.

Not forgetting the fog
from which reality is obsessively fashioned.
(I must learn to unmake its fabric.)

Not forgetting those waves rippling
like shattered mouths
that widen in every direction;
as the camera zooms out
like the eye of an all-powerful deity
with something else better to do—

Don't kid
but save
yourself: abandon
ship. Time

(without which the self
disappears) is smoke and mirrors
and carnivorous waters.


Passing yet another funeral at the void
deck of Block 355, the fifth one
since we moved here, my unsanctioned
family, I gaze about the impermanence
of everything this evening: dwindling lives
of aged, Clementi neighbours hunched
over their plants, still defending
their allotted spaces in the public garden;
older flats repainted the colour of ugly
or pulled down like dirty drawers;
my partner, my best friend and I
abandoning hope in the goodness of society
the more we argued over meals
at our usual corner coffeeshop; months
without rain ended with a derisive drizzle,
the afterthought of a downpour,
then more haze like a return of the repressed.

Monks chant now in a dying dialect
and I pause to observe relatives poised
like broken pillars around a coffin.
If I listen for long enough, that flicker
of fluorescent light is a half-wink
from across the eternal. Beyond
this roundabout another kind of road
is unspooling outwards without end. Behind
this neighbourhood, a larger, expansive
estate reveals itself; an invisible, no-time zone
of a country without a name except the ones
we have given it. But even this moment
ends, without ceremony; night descends
fully on its hands and knees, licking
high windows to a mournful, moon-lit shine.

My feet relocate themselves in time's gravity.
Loved ones, I remember, wait back home,
oblivious to the wake that must carry on
till morning. I come alive with a wave and hello
at my front door; an earlier weightlessness
dancing through me like memory or a ghost.
I remind myself to be grateful. Despite knowing
how even this will pass, like tired rituals
of the grieving downstairs, I welcome
the present like a long-lost lover. Again, we kiss
and touch and forget as only the living can.
ImageCyril Wong is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of poetry collections such as Unmarked Treasure and The Lover's Inventory. A past recipient of the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award for Literature, he completed his doctoral degree in English Literature at the National University of Singapore in 2012. His poems have been anthologised in Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W. W. Norton 2008) and Chinese Erotic Poems (Everyman's Library 2007).
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