Carol Chan is Singaporean. Her writing has been performed and published
in Singapore, Edinburgh and Melbourne, including Meanjin, WetInk, Mascara
Literary Review and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. She is currently
researching her honours thesis in anthropology at the University of Melbourne.
Some days things just don't fit
into the puzzle of the world.
Some people sleep instead, the doctor had said,
when I said I wished to remove myself gently
from the world without so much
as a ripple. No goodbyes, no mourning.
But then it happens while waiting
for the 9.12 bus that is always late:
a girl and her mother wait for the light
to turn green before crossing
the empty morning road;
a homeless man inhales deeply
on his cigarette. I have a warm coat,
a coffee in one hand, and somewhere
to get to. How far can we fall?
The early autumn wind is blowing
and the leaves fall like kindness
into where things find their place.
The 9.12 bus is coming.
This dark wardrobe might remain
a wardrobe behind a door, or hold another
within it, more, or at least
a mirror. This can't be chaos
but a cosmos done.
The past is not a reliable witness
for this trial the present is on.
Yet in a day or a year
we might find a reason here
for whoever we might become.
Learning to Leave
Streetlamps pass us like the years:
my father is driving me away
from our house on that street where
I learned about the shyness of the mimosa
plant, whose eyelids close
even in the faintest breeze.
This was where I learned to wait
for the bus to arrive to grow up
and patiently counted to a hundred
before going in search of the hidden.
This was when we crossed oceans
under tables to invented countries
but sought permission to go to the park.
I have packed my future in these boxes
that sit in the boot of the car now,
as we drive past the market that has since
been torn down. In its place is a lonely patch
of grass. On this night the roads seem wider
and emptier though I see a thousand tiny lights
ahead. In the car the anger of the traffic
cannot reach us. As the light turns green,
I wonder what my father catches in his rearview
mirror as I focus on the road we’re moving along
wishing we'd never get there or return where
we were, wishing we could go on traveling
as the streetlamps pass and mimosas
open and shut their tiny palms
conquering their fears, as a song plays
on the radio, which will soon pass on to another song.
No, I don't know how many yards make a mile,
how many gallons we'll need for however far it is
to St Andrews, to Perth, and back; how many litres
a gallon, and how many pounds for that.
You're trying to understand the math behind this
getting there, having bought a map, hand on the wheel
as I think only about how it has been two months,
eight weeks, a million days or barely one since
we've met. Did you read that sign?
You ask, trying to place these fields,
this road, trying to remain in control.
I’m sure we’re still on the A915, I reply,
the way I'm sure you haven't lost your glasses;
things don't just disappear. They're just waiting
to be found, somewhere else if not here, where
you haven't thought to look. Most things
aren’t obvious or as clear. How do you know?
You ask. How can you be so sure?
The sea is somewhere near, I say.
From wherever we are off the map,
I can hear it breathing and sighing,
flinging itself against cliffs and walls,
or clinging on to some shore, before slinking
away reluctantly, in search of a somewhere else
that may give something more.
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