Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cigarettes

I forget how they taste like.
In dreams, a pale blue thread of
smoke strangles me. Faintly the trace
of another smoker follows me
as I wander aimlessly at first,
then arriving at the site
of my beautiful grave.
I sit up in my bed looking
at the alarm clock.
A bird is singing outside.
I forget how it tastes like.
Amber traffic light at the end of the stick.
The sound that it makes when it thinks I'm not looking.
The stolen glances across the room at the little box I finished last night.
The emptiness, some sort of regret, then hunger or whatever, to pass the time.
Waving it around like a wand.
The sensation that passes
with each dying puff.
Tiny little dragons.
I forget. I simply forget.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Following

As I follow you through the crowd, I feel conflicted
by the terrifying possibility you don't want me to.

Suddenly reflections in shop windows display
a desperation not even earnestness can deflect.

I search for any sign at all that you might see me
not for what I stand for but maybe for who I am.

A pedestrian kind of yearning, magnified precisely
as it verges on disappearing in the traffic and the noise.

Would that my hand reach out and brush against your
hair and your cheek; just thinking it makes me weak.

I keep on walking, I pretend to not notice you.
You're a stranger, after all. And I walk into a wall.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Rise and Fall of the Republic

Note: In my teens growing up in Sabah, there was a definite anti-federalist sentiment in the air, no doubt inspired by the then-ruling PBS state government defiant actions against the federal government and their former BN coalition partners. Regardless of PBS's true political intentions and ambitions, it stirred up talk of secession, of Sabahan independence. It dominated Sabahans' political talk in the office, at home, and even in school. There were rumours that a state-funded freedom fighter militia were training in the jungle. Sabahan pride flared. The motto was: Sabah for Sabahans. We wanted our state back. We'd been exploited by federalist interests for far too long. And PBS seemed to be the antidote to former state governments that had colluded with the federal government to sell out the state. But in the end, it was not to be. In the end, BN won out. And Sabah politics (and politicians) was revealed to be a sham. This poem is a fantasy based on the events that happened around that time and afterward. It was written to be read out during Ops Bilang on 26 Oct at The Annexe Gallery. Ops Bilang was an event organised by Centre of Independent Journalism featuring various artists responding to key sociopolitical issues affecting Malaysians, held in conjunction with the launch of CIJ's Let's Talk About website and to commemorate Ops Lalang. This poem may offend a few readers. Apologies if it reads rather rough; I had wanted to blunt it with more beautiful or clever turns of phrases... but perhaps I'm still too affected by it.


For more background on how the issue of Federalism has affected the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, please read this excellent introductory piece written by Sonia Randhawa. http://letstalkabout.cijmalaysia.org/federalism/

*
We spoke about this in high school
During the height of the PBS-inspired
Anti-federalist movement in the late 80s
We spoke about leaving Malaysia

But not like Singapore
Not a mere knifefight among political drama queens
Sabahans would form an army, drink a sakti potion
And fight for secession

We would harvest our share of blood
Like the headhunters of old
Except we’ll do it with guns and steel
Supplied by the CIA

We would kill any Western Malaysian
Who did not agree with the new republic
Or we would take them hostage
And trade them for our independence

Because frankly we’ve had enough
The time for talking has come to an end
There is nothing left to negotiate
You have betrayed us for the last time

Only blood could pay back for the insult
Of not honouring the 20 Points (if you don’t know the 20 Points, please Google it),
Of systemically exploiting the state’s natural resources,
Of clandestinely attempting to Islamise our people,

Of not remembering the geographical difference
Between Sabah and Sarawak,
Of flaunting that Semenanjung arrogance fueled by stolen wealth,
And for sniggering at our obviously superior accent

Sabahans have been reduced to nothing more
Than slaves to the federation
There was no principle, no honour—this had been our education
And so we would teach them what we’ve learned

Our fight would be reminiscent
Of the great postcolonial battles
Of Sumatra, Southern Thailand, Mindanao,
East Timor, Kashmir and West Papua

Women and children would suffer
Half-naked warriors would go down in flames (fully naked!)
The war will be fought like a videogame
With luminous tropical colours and award-winning sound effects

And we would’ve triumphed in the end
We would’ve broken away as a rogue state
Join up with Sarawak and Kalimantan
And maybe even invade Brunei

But that dream of the future all changed in 1996
After the darkest elections in Sabah history
When PBS politicians jumped ship
To sleep with BN the federalist roaders

Why our own politicians
Succumbed to money politics so easily
And how we allowed ourselves
To sigh afterwards so fuckin’ disappointedly

We sink so hopelessly
Until we come face to face
With the stinking parasitic rafflesia
In full glorious stately bloom

And there it was, the answer we were looking for
Our youthful fantasies merely fantasies
Forced to put our imaginary weapons to rest
In the ditch where our revolution lay stillborn, growing over with weeds

Abandoned in greed, forsaken for selfishness
How mistaken we were to think the Federation did not care
They cared alright
They cared that we actually thought what independence meant

Politics didn’t matter anyway
Old friends would say “Buat apa bah kau mau cakap tentang perkara yang sudah bangas?”
There was still the question
Of what to do with the rest of our lives

So some of us went overseas to study
And some of us worked
And some of us got married and had kids
And some of us even migrated, died

In the meantime, West Malaysians had been bulldozed by Ops Lalang
Then Reformasi happened
Anwar was punched, his prostate massaged and jailed
Then Mahathir cried and stepped down

But what do we care
About the rest of Malaysia
When West Malaysians speak about Malaysia
They only go so far east as Kelantan

Sarawakians would know what I’m talking about
The Penans and Ibans send their most sincere regards
To your fattened leaders in Putrajaya
And all the guileless reptiles sucking on their tits

I wish
I could still say
I still have
Those dreams

But I’m not a revolutionary anymore
Not since I moved to KL and saw
How shopping exerted a far more influential influence
Than any plea for equality or fairness ever will

And that’s how I see federalism these days
It’s all just a shopping mall maze
And how we are lost inside it like tourists
Who don’t understand the language

We’re all just passing through
Because it’s just another shopping mall
It’s not really a country anymore
It’s just another shopping mall

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Silent Storm

Where are we on this cold dark night, hands
wrapped around empty  cups waiting
for prophecies to arrive?
Where did the words go,
simple words, complicated words,
words that mean nothing,
words of magic and of scholarship?

There is only the silence of apartments
in the hour between death and sleep.

Where is the poet, wrestling with her thoughts,
her double life, her ghostly lovers
who tempt her with thoughts of sugar
and a storm? Should we not be on the lookout?
Shouldn’t we be in a watchtower, or scanning the footage
of surveillance cameras? Waiting at the edge of deserts
for prophets to appear?

I think, I say, I’m expecting someone
or something; or maybe I’m missing
the touch of something familiar,
like the note from a guitar
as it escapes from
my finger.

I’ve never known silence like this,
wrapped around me like walls of cotton.

Even a mirror is no comfort to me now.

The New Palace

From across the highway, you park your car and watch it burn.
They've broken through the gates and set the monster on fire.
So you leave your old life here beside the road
and walk toward the screaming and the sirens.
You can't help but feel melancholic.
Where are the tyrants?
Where are the tyrants?

You've seen the footage on CNN and BBC before
but nothing prepares you for the taste of flames, the FRU,
the rattling of batons against riot shields.
Or the empty rush surging through your head
as the crowds heave and the ground gives way.
You're holding your breath.
You're holding your breath.

You see an inch-high figure with a loud hailer
but water cannons sweep him clean.
You see kids of every colour, with faces wrapped and raised fists:
the smell of dank sweat as it rubs of on your skin and claims you
for its own, pushing you to the front of the pack.
And then you hear the explosions.
You run.
You run.

Up ahead a girl is being dragged off by her hair.
Another girl is being kicked. And another. And another.
You feel the fullness of your anger like the stone in your hand
and you give it wings, you give it life, you let it fly
from your fist by the full swing of your shoulder.
There.
There.

Darkness burns like an inkstain across the parchment of the skies.
The palace is ravaged and there's crimson in your eyes.
Is it time to go home yet or should you wait
for the last embers to die?
Someone touches you on your shoulder and asks:
Did we kill the king?
Did we kill the king?

The City Is Crying

(for Benjamin McKay, 1964-2010)

On any other day, we'd look up at the sky and think
"Oh... just another shower."
One would think, we should be used to this by now.
It happens almost everyday;
there's nothing to it--it's just water, the contents of
a nameless cloud, unraveling.

But not today. Today the city is crying. The city is weeping.
The streets are drenched with tears.
The white noise of the downpour can barely hide the silence.
A silence that makes everything feel
so sad and low and dim. One would think "How shameful--
the rain is trying to wash away his trace."

But not today. Today the city cries. The city weeps.
Today, in the city, somewhere
in the deep sadness that has welled up and tumbled
out of the vastness of the sky
like gigantic teardrops, someone's life is missing a familiar
face. Come, let me wipe away your tears.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Facebook Poetry Challenge

Yesterday on my Facebook status update I asked friends to challenge me by contributing the opening line to which I would then proceed to write out the rest of the poem. 12 lines were contributed so 12 poems. (There is a 13th line. But I'm still writing that. I'll update this entry when the last one is done.) I don't know if other people might consider it a fun thing to do but I do love writing poems. The problem is sometimes I don't really have anything to write about. So sometimes I go for weeks and months without writing a single word. So this challenge was basically to write to specs. LOL. So here they are. 12 poems written in the space of maybe 5 hours or something like that, beginning with the first contribution. I admit not all of them are great... LOL. But I'm sure at the very least they're kinda amusing... :-P

+

For Amir Muhammad: Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Or a tepid jellyfish be more like a clam?
I'm sure it can be done if only Nature
tried harder. But she's a stubborn dame,
if ever there was one, far too content
in her pursuit of evolution to sort out
the difference between women and men.
One under a moon waiting for her prize.
The other finding it gleaming in her eyes.
Infinite mysteries elude us yet again.
I am a child; I do not understand.

+

For Margaret Agusta: Is It You I Miss Or The Faded Possibilities?

Is it you I miss or the faded possibilities?
Futures tested and failed, or
the hands I knew once as yours
clasped in mine not so long ago?

Is it you I miss or our broken histories?
Golden yesterdays that gleam, or
your honeyed eyes I thought
would never look away?

Is it you I miss or that promise of bliss?
Your lips that turned to velvet upon mine, or
that moment before you turned cold,
no longer fated, no longer gold?

+

For Nell Ng: Hold On, If I Could, I Would

Hold on, if I could, I would
be the thing that you want.
A vessel of deepest desires
from posterior to the front.

I would waste nothing.
And I would play the game.
I would strip naked
and find a different name.

A thing of brevity I'd be.
Solid in my transparency.
A riddle no one can undo
except to pour your truth into.

And yet you loathe and despise
everything I've been.
If you could, you would've
torn me limb from limb.

But you could not
and you would not, not
in all your hallucinations of me,
because you knew what you mean to me.

If I were really that thing
you thought you could own,
you would've already known.
You would've been alone.

+

For Tim McCann: Wild Ghosts Hold Fast To Keep The Dreams At Bay

Wild ghosts hold fast to keep the dreams at bay,
howling as they tug on my sanity
each and every damned day.
My edges fray, my eyes turn grey.
Life is a storm in which I am a blotted ray of light
spun into a violent dance,
haunted by the future,
hounded by the past,
pushed up the broken stairs into the little chamber in my head
where I keep time, eyes closed.
This is where I stay.
In the middle of the floor,
back and forth
I gently sway.
To the music
of the waves.

+

For Ian Chew: I'd Be Your Wrist If You'd Be My Blade

I'd be your wrist if you'd be my blade,
bring you my mist to soothe you as you fade.
Lest you'd be the kiss that alights on my frog,
I'd be the comment that appears on your blog.

I shall not be sorry if I cause you laughter.
Your infernal amusement is all I am after.
I'd be your sunshine if you'd be my plant.
To my beloved block of sugar, I am your ant.

+

For Shieko: Busy Bangsar Pasar, Don't Put Si-ham In My Kuey Teow

Busy Bangsar pasar, don't put si-ham in my kuey teow,
those tiny quivering pieces
of boneless, faceless flesh,
like bruised amputated lips staring up,
or eyelids hanging loose over hollow sockets,
winking in between greasy waves of flat noodles and taugeh,
signaling to me with bruised looks,
trying to say something to me
in a wordless language
too nauseating to be understood.
Bangsar, I don't like si-ham at all.

+

For Ronnie Khoo: Let's Do It, Let's Do It, Let's Do It, Let's Do It, And Do It, And Do It, Let's Live It Up

Let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, and do it, and do it, let's live it up.
The oyster said to the knife, as the blade reached under and severed it from life.

Let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, and do it, and do it, let's live it up.
The paper said to the hand, as it crumpled the white surface into a ball like a fist.

Let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, and do it, and do it, let's live it up.
The sin said to the sinner, as it stabbed it in the heart again and again.

Let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, let's do it, and do it, and do it, let's live it up.
The eye said to the memory, as it retrieved all the hollowness it felt in between.

+

For Asrar Muzamir: God Is A Linguist, Life Is A Book

God is a linguist, life is a book.
He read all my secrets and from me he took.
God is an artist, colour his tool.
But he made me blind and called me a fool.

If I were a fish, he gutted my ocean.
If I were a pig, he roasted my cousin.
God is my saviour, he pays all my bills.
Like a soldier of love, he's ready to kill.

+

For Chew Hiu Wah: Here I Have Seen Truth Crucified And Justice Buried

Here I have seen Truth crucified and Justice buried.
One to feed the crows and the other
to be forgotten.

Not so long ago, I saw them walking side by side,
sometimes in quarrel,
sometimes in embrace, but never apart.

They lived among the people
and when the people called upon them
they would answer, for they were bound to the people.

Truth showed the people what they've always known
and Justice made sure they were
always in the right.

Where the people would go, they followed,
Truth and Justice, though to be frank,
they were not always wanted.

For the people often preferred Lies and Corruption.
Lies and Corruption made the people feel wealthy
instead of being in need.

In secret they told the people to make a cross
and dig a hole. They told the people,
Deceit will make it easy and Denial will give you courage.

And so it came to be, on that fateful day when the people
called on Truth and Justice for the last time,
when I sought the killer's names, the names

they belonged to me.

+

For Jeremy Liew: I Will Not Succumb To Your Challenge!!!

I will not succumb to your challenge!!!
The Prime Minister addressed his wife
sternly, despite his state of undress.

I will not give you the satisfaction!!!
But she's not really listening to the man
tied up like a sexpig to the bedposts.

I will never ever surrender!!!
He struggles against his bondage as
the whip cracks across his appendage.

I will give you nothing!!! Nothing!!!
She twists his pegged nipples
clockwise, then counter-clockwise.

I will never kow tow to you!!!
He chokes as she tugs at his
studded leather monkey collar.

I will never be your slave!!!
She turns on the electronic device
and watches as he comes.

You will obey me.
You will obey me.
You will obey me.

+

For Azwan Ismail: Lick My Tango, You Rubber Pussycat

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

For years it tormented him.
All through high school and college
and even now as a well-loved literary professor
all he could think about was
that message she gave him when he was 10:
Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

Where exactly was her tango?
Was it code for some secret location
she would only reveal to the members
of the Explorer Club?
And why would she want to have it licked?

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

She didn't even like to be touched,
much less licked.
There was a time when they were walking
along the perimeter of the school field
and he wanted to touch her hand.
But she gave him the look.

It was the look of murder.

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.

She didn't like touches.
She didn't like cats.
Did she tango? He couldn't remember.
But rubber pussycat?

Maybe it's an anagram.
Or maybe it's a warning disguised as a riddle.
Or maybe he was supposed to repay it with a rhyme,
nonsense that it was;
perhaps it was meant to be the beginning
of a transaction.

There was that moment at graduation
when the look she often gave him
morphed into something else.
He was about to go off with his friends.
And she was about to go off with hers.
There was a softness in her eyes he'd never seen before.

He had wanted to call her afterwards
but he was too shy at first,
and by the time he did,
her mother told him
she had drowned on a camping trip.

Twenty five years too late.

Lick my tango, you rubber pussycat.
Why won't you tell me where you're at?
I'll be your mango, my sugar paperhat.
Why not show me your heart, you silly fluffy rat?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vampiric Youth

Accept death.

Accept joy.

Accept pleasure as your heart
marches toward doom.

Accept ecstasy in the kisses
falling to the floor of your room.

Accept whispers from strangers,
candied words, amphetamines.

Accept reticence when they remove
the future from your eyes.

Accept the blindness that comes
with eternal youth.

Accept not life, but death.

The Death Of Magic, Of Rock & Roll, And What Lies Beyond

Explosions. Furious fires. Civilisations that fall from grace.
The wizards and shamans and priests
all beg on their knees with their faces
turned upwards, not knowing anymore what the windfall may bring.
The death of magic in the ruthless hands of logic.
The death of rock and roll and everything else
that might have once made some noise.

Expulsions. Curious wires. Evil angels that rise from hell.
The demons and goblins and priests
all wither to dust with their shadows
smeared across the consequences of our useless actions.
The death of dreams none can compensate for.
The death of sex, as though flushed away
from the cunt of a whore.

But I will walk away from fire
and I will tame the chasm that is hell.
The worried weeping wounds of my wasted past
is just a fable that once made so much noise.

I will not bleed forever, nor die in vain.
And all the chords I ever played on my guitar
still vibrate, passing through light and dark,

beyond this face, this head, this thought that you had to wait so long for.

I am beyond repair, beyond magic, beyond rock and roll.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cunt

That night Chloe heard jazz music
coming from down the hallway.
She had heard it before.
The door behind her, she walked
slowly to Isabel's room.

It was unlocked.

She looked inside.

Isabel was naked.
Her wheat blonde tresses fell
across her back, flowing over
her pale round buttocks.

Isabel was laughing.

There was a man with her.

The music was none other than Billie Holiday
singing "That Ole Devil Called Love",
emanating from a gramophone
beside the bed.

The man ran his fingers across
Isabel's creamy skin.

He kissed her lips.

They closed their eyes
as they kissed.

Quietly, Chloe cried.

In between her tears, a word slipped
from under her breath:
"Cunt."

Each & Every One A Disappointment, There Was No Exception, Not A Single One

They're just words. They don't mean anything.
If you stop to consider them against
the absolute wonder of nature's decay, even news
from someone whom you always knew
was never really your friend
can no longer hurt.
Words you can always forget.
In between all the other meaningless things,
the crossed-out sentimental gibberish,
aborted thoughts of days, like any other,
unmemorable, except for their dull brass,
their cookie-cutter flavours,
their dubious romance
with the most common of common.
Nothing unique about them at all.
After you've unraveled them and laid them out flat
for all the world to see, what special specimen have they got for you?
Did they bring you anything resembling a lost continent;
a quicksilver verse or a dish of recovered innocence,
some microbe that just might stay?
Nay. They all sailed away, didn't they?
Words, words, words.
Language that you thought could
have at least understood.
Those poets and balladeers
with their empty hearts.
They left nothing behind. Except for all this junk
that doesn't even have the decency to fill.

So:
tear that paper in half.
Tear that useless piece of paper in half.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bitch

Isabel had already fallen by the time
Chloe struck her the second time.
And then after hitting her another five times,
Chloe set the stone aside.

The stone was the size of a grown man’s fist.
Chloe had wrapped it carefully in a towel
and placed it in the basket
beside the sandwiches and soda.

Chloe kneeled beside the body,
her heart racing like a thoroughbred’s.

Isabel’s body was trembling.
Chloe looked down at Isabel’s deformed face
choking on its own blood and mucous.
Then she reached out for the ring
on Isabel’s finger and pulled.

It was made of gold with silver filigree
and a 24-karat diamond heart.
The ring came off with surprising ease.

There was no one around for miles
out there on the lonely beach.
Blood from Isabel’s wounds seeped into the sand,
staining her blonde hair crimson
and her blue swimsuit maroon.

The sun felt warm on their pale skin.
The seabreeze teased with its coolness.

As though afraid it would lose its shine,
Chloe wrapped her hand around her prize.

And then she leaned over Isabel’s body
to whisper in the dying woman’s ear:
“Bitch.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Last Dance

(for Caecar Chong, 1974 - 2010)

Alone on the stage, he sleeps.
His final gesture as a dancer
is as a foetus.
Instead of placenta,
flowers surround him.
He dances without movement.
Without music.
The lights flicker like
so many tongues of flame.
Yet he remains a lotus.
After so many curtain calls
and rehearsals, finally
his body obeys him.
He is as still as a building
lying on its side.
Eyes closed.
Hands clasped.
Dancer of darkness and light.
Alone, asleep and alive.