Cyril Wong is a poet, fictionist and critic. Poems here are taken from his book,
Oneiros (Singapore: Firstfruits Publications 2010). More about him here.
Panic overtaken by terror, but it passes too
as I reach immobility. Within the body,
my spirit tingles. Then it vibrates and vibrates.
A thin line between sleep and waking
and everything happens. Outside and inside
interpenetrate. Pillow and head are one,
like blanket and skin. I am like a dancer
stilled to a blur, revealing movement
as movement in a photograph. Any narrative
my life used to have could stop right here.
Where there is no such thing as become,
only becoming. Where I make out syllables
of leaves, and a distant radio is God's
diminished voice. But a poem will have
its last line, as blood must reach the surface.
Fingers twitch as if to a puppeteer's will.
I try to stop, but I arrive no matter what I do.
We are in the same car, two men
making out in a deserted alleyway.
As we grope and cling, the car
rolls, we fail to care, half-suspecting
it is our kiss propelling the vehicle
out onto the street. Behind you,
I see my parents on the sidewalk
fainting comically to the ground
at the sight of us, a wrist to the brow.
I want to laugh but I cannot do so
with my tongue in your mouth.
The car seems to know exactly
where to go. More people seem to
drop as we drive by: Father Arro
who told me God existed by virtue
of trees and the sun's rise and fall,
every teacher who favoured us
for busting our asses to please them,
the rest of your family who have
yet to learn about us. They collapse
in spite of themselves. Buildings
are starting to sway too as we pass.
Soon the Parliament House is
caving unto itself. I watch
the Merlion wobble and topple
into the river with an unimpressive
splash. Churches, flats, and malls
shudder to rubble in our wake.
Somehow we are still kissing,
you with your eyes closed, mine
wide open, as our ride takes us
to a shore and straight into the sea.
We are unable to stop kissing,
as waves gorge on our car,
darting fishes or an occasional
squid bouncing off the windshield.
We stop when we reach a world
where no person or building may
fall at the spectacle of our embrace.
I think we are almost there. Already,
the car is filling with water, warm
as saliva in a lover's mouth. We
soar across a galaxy of plankton
undistracted by our kiss, water
rising intimately around our necks,
our destination so close we can
taste the ocean on our lips.
I was a mouse waiting to sing
my poems for other mice to hear.
Another mouse approached me
to ask, "What is your poetry about?"
So I told him, "It is about cheese
or the music of our scurrying
from one hole to the next."
"Then it is nothing we do not
already know," he replied.
Perhaps he was right, and mice
have no need for poems.
After he scurried away, I was
left to retreat alone into my hole
and wake up from this dream.
This is what Forough Farrokhzad has called
"a cheerless walk in the garden of memories."
No Eve, and not even Adam to greet me
with his olive skin and can-I-fuck-you eyes.
Only one face after another from my past
gathering like crows on the wire of my mind.
The friends who did not wait for me to change,
the ex-boyfriends, dissatisfied lovers,
mocking tormentors in my private hell.
Couldn't you be more... Why are you so...
I can't love you if you are... the words bite
hard on my inner ear. As this is my dream,
I will everything into a blur, but deep
between trees of taunting figures melting
into shadow, I glimpse–I am sure–the self
I hope to be, the self that everyone here
would embrace in real life. I walk up to
that darting flicker. When I get closer,
his form fades like Eurydice the moment
Orpheus swivelled to seize sight of her.
Unlike Orpheus, the one with the silvery throat
is the ghost hovering beyond my reach,
who taught me songs about self-love and joy
that I sing without irony or derision.
"This is my lot," Forough wrote. Even when
I am awake, I need only to shut my eyes
and I am pursuing the ideal that I may
never become. Leaning into my reflection
in the bathroom, I almost see, a shade
flitting across my face like an unspoken word,
my lot: this long brawl with anger,
my inability to forgive, an inclination to depart.
I look away and remind myself that this is
not that dream. I can believe that something
is lifting in my chest. I can almost believe
the man I have been chasing is already me.
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