Poetry / October 2018 (Issue 41: Writing Singapore)

Chemical Hearteners

by Grace Chia

It was an antihistamine meant to
relieve a night itch: do not drive,
it says, may cause drowsiness—
so I popped one pill and went to bed.
It worked its magic, a dreamless
rest from a brackish night to
a darkened dawn when I rose for work.
All day, the chemicals take root
in my heart; I breathe in short hard spurts,
my eyes flutter quick and twitch.
Sleepwalking, I may be dead still
to the world, miming robotic motions
shuffling one foot and the next,
trying to get some place I’ve forgotten
where or why I wanted to at the start.
I recall only the signs, dollars dangled
like amulets to ward off a portentous
future—poverty, disease, decrepitude,
vague reasons for my servitude to the
mothership metropolis where androids
don’t emote nor speak but dream
of sheep to ease into sleep.
When finished, press this on/off button,
restart the process. The white witches are
prancing in their own silent movie, drowning
scream by scream. My mouth is agape.
I have uttered but nothing is heard.
Tonight someone will feast on my tears
and dine on my sighs and I will cry one
last time before I recycle and rewind,
reboot the central nervous system I have
been plugged in from artery to cubicle pod
to the ghosted god of the no-name machine.
Editors' note:
"Chemical Hearteners" is included in Grace Chia's Mother of All Questions (Math Paper Press).

ImageGrace Chia is the author of poetry collections, womango, Cordelia and Mother of All Questions, a short story collection, Every Moving Thing That Lives Shall Be Food, a novel, The Wanderlusters, two nonfiction books and editor of We R Family. Her work has been anthologised in Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine, Twin Cities, Anthology of English Writing in Southeast Asia, The Brooklyn Rail, Singapore Literature in English, Fish Eats Lion, A Luxury We Cannot Afford, From Walden To Woodlands, UnFree Verse, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Poetry.sg and translated for die horen (German), La Traductiere (French), Six on the Dot (Chinese/Portuguese) and Knijzevne Novine (Serbo-Croat). The inaugural NAC-NTU Writer-in-Residence for 2011-2012, she has been awarded residencies in Macau and Korea. Her poetry collaboration with HK-based photographer Marcel Heijnen on a book about garage dogs will be out by Christmas 2018.
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