Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sri Melaka

Ash Wednesday, 2012.

We live in strange seasons
Desiring pain in prosperity, and emptiness
Where there is more than enough.

Peeling tangerines, the hands fragrant
Reminiscent of the celebrations of years past
(The years have passed so fast.)
“Oh, look how he’s grown,” to “Are you married yet?”
The world itself a smaller place—
Or, perhaps we, having grown, now occupy more space.
The ceiling lower, or we’ve grown taller
Our parents aged, and we’ve grown older.

I saw an egret alight on a tree,
A rarity in the rampant emptying of resting places.
Our social graces extinct in the gentrified gutters of the city,
Sunk like stones sinking in koi ponds,
Which, for the most part are coy ponds
In their deception—
Teeming, apparently, with life, while the only life
Is wheels turning, water recycled, fish floating
Suspended in the mirage of a living pond.

Somewhere between the sleeping station and the roaring jungle river
My destiny awaits.
I greet it with stale oranges bearing my name,
Kept for this very purpose
To be flung into the darkness
In hopes of being found.
There’s no one around, "Quick, into the cabin!
Into the shower while no one’s watching—"
Midnight masquerades with ourselves
While the moon shines bright as day.

We live in strange seasons
Desiring pain in prosperity, and emptiness
Where there is more than enough.

The survivor, seven times struck by lightning
Severed the cord of his life
On account of a failed relationship;
Depression—the electrical impulses within,
More powerful than those without. 
Emptiness, where there is more than enough
To discourage, to disrupt, to destroy—
Who would not desire a simpler life,
The yesterday of India over the tomorrow of Japan?
Two futures, but we proceed into neither
For the future is every decision we make today.

Pierced bodies in procession, momentarily
Interrupted for political interludes, birds caged,
Aged eagles with unspreaded wings
Chattering into an impatient crowd.
Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have
None of these can give—
No manifestoes, no mock cheques, no masterful orations or oratorios
But the blind see, the deaf hear, the sick are cured
The dead are raised to life.

It’s a long night’s journey.
Realistically, I’ll need four hours—
I’ll start at seven,
Work will take me till eleven.

A suicide wish: four snails, several metres apart,
Crossing a three-foot pathway, no fear
Of jogger, or childer, or dogs
With dogged determination at the hour of death.

I came by this way before; I’ll come by this way again
With nothing left to lose, and everything to gain.
The world is your oyster. Thank you,
I’ll have mine with lemon juice and Tabasco sauce
My magnum opus in six days because
It’s all I have.

Watch me in seventy-two
(Between sunset, moonset and sunrise too);
O you who look to seaward, sit still
Among these rocks, in ship-filled docks
And windowsills.

* * *

Written on Ash Wednesday, the poem incorporates thoughts, events and reflections since Chinese New Year. The title itself draws from several particularly strong childhood memories of Chinese New Year.

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