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