Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In a Thousand Words or Less

For Emily Chow.

I. Dead End

It was at the cul-de-sac, that
The squatters in their makeshift homes and caravans
Lit fires in the evenings, burning wood and coal,
The women carrying bags upon their heads;
The neighbours planting vegetables in the patch below.

And then the other green, the overgrowth and pond
And the geese—
And the surprised Dachshund meeting birds taller than himself.

There are places I remember all my life
(Though some have changed);
Some have gone and some remain.

First fresh, now peaceful, breeze:
But who am I to say? (I live on one of these.)
And the garden, perhaps an attempt at redemption
Trying to keep life alive.
But what use is it?
So I’ve a degree—I know the words, the theory
But it doesn’t make of me a gardener,
Of these brown, crumbing clods of earth, green fingers.

We’ll meet at the Centre Court, Level Three
(Wherever that may be.)

The poison-girdled tree was probably deciduous—
Its leaves were gone, branches bare
Yet it was standing,
Always standing there.

Unless the Lord builds, they labour in vain who build the house,
They watch in vain upon the ramparts and the towers.

II. The Market

We’re already on the way back
Help us buy two hanging monkeys please—
It’s just outside the place,
Just outside the place where
Dreams of what could be lie,
Where dreams belie what could be.

Offer hari ini, lima ringgit saja
Very cheap today! Yes—hello!”
We and our bargain lives;
When you pay rock bottom you hit rock bottom
And rock bottom breaks you.
The people who throw rubbish out their car windows
Are those who, afflicted with dengue and diarrhoea
Complain that the government isn’t doing anything about clogged drains.

On my way to Lucifer I found Christ;
Or maybe Christ found me walking down that street
And greeted me with the sound of singing
That only comes from that sort of place where
Joy abounds abundantly,
Aboundingly abundant in praise.

(It was the singing drew me in.)

A prayer on the streets of
Calcutta In the back alleys of Yogyakarta
Or in a secret room in Cheras;
When you have learnt to seek God it becomes
A means of great sanctity to you, to those around you.

Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel,
Will you at this time restore?
We were meant to live for so much more.

Let your fruit abide.
Whatever you ask the Father in my name
He will give to you:
Greater love hath none than this,
That you lay down you life for another.

III. The Inner Room

In that inner room, where the noise of the world is drowned away
In silence;
Where emptiness fills the spaces filled with emptiness,
And the emptying is preparation for a new fulfilment.

In that inner room,
The introspection of a writer meets the action of a superhero;
You’re well set on having a good balance of both
And safe from ever living a normal life.

Living on the edge was never going to be easy.

What of friends,
Of Davids and Jonathans,
Of brothers with bonds stronger than blood?
We are the envelope,
Emaciated, etiolated—empty on the inside,
Waiting for our filling with words
Our filling with the Word that is more than words,
With the spirit and the power that enables us to testify
With words beyond the power of words.

But these are not the words of the wise.

My spirit is overcome with fear,
I cannot dance to save my life
(I have the flexibility of papadum)
But I am not dancing to save my life;
I am dancing because this bitter earth calls me to dance
To sway and to swing
To swirl and show a sign that I am alive.

Knowing that in giving you can never outgive,
Knowing that the words will come when they are needed
(Did you lack anything when I sent you out?)
Knowing that in dying you may yet live.

I know that this is not goodbye.

IV. At an Exhibition

In a thousand words or less
You have captured a moment—
A minute before, a minute after, and it will be different.
It doesn’t matter if people do not like it; that is their problem.

Stun these people, hear them say
That they have never seen such as you, such young people
Carry themselves with such grace and confidence,
With passion and compassion.

Stun these people, hear them say
That they have never seen such sacrilege
Such utter disrespect and contempt for austerity
And tried and tested ways.

But listen to what people say, good or bad;
All our fingers are different—
Everyone will have a different opinion.

We will be there, see you then.

V. Still, and Still Moving

Matur nuwun
They probably knew that word, those squatters
(They might have, I don’t know.)
Don’t know what to say now
But ‘thanks’ is perhaps the best word a stranger, a foreigner, can learn.

What does it feel to have those tractors
Desecrating this sacred tract of land,
This earth that gave life birth for so many, many years,
To have the ground yanked from under your feet?

Jack’s has iPads; or Galaxies—they’re all the same to me.
Remember when salons had magazines?
We wanted kids to read, and then comic books came;
Wanted computer literacy, then the iPad came;
To be adept communicators, then Facebook took over—
All good intentions subverted.
(Or maybe today, it doesn’t matter what your intentions are anymore.)

We are wisest when we do not hoard
What we cannot keep anyway.
Learn to give when you have nothing left
For it is the right thing to do;
As a man is in his poverty, so will he be in prosperity.

All aboard!

A bowl and two pairs of chopsticks
Sitting by the sink;
But this ship is unsinkable, or so we think.

* * *

Completed on 21 May with some ideas sketched as early as February.

1 comment:

Emmy said...

Ohh? Why, thank you =)