Gwee Li Sui taught literature at the National University of Singapore.
His graphic novel Myth of the Stone (1993) was published to critical
silence; it is out of print today and its publisher has since wound up.
Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), his volume of humorous
poems, was not meant to be published; it was privately circulated
before a selection was bravely issued under the same name.

Struggling with the Old Self

can you run again
when Diocletian has caught up with you
can you run again
this time can you can you leap again
a frog from his welled view

this is no man's rain
you are no Elijah and this voodoo
chants old ghost again
from old wells from old rains of an old strain
can you run can you

A Chinese Parable

Said the Premier: For a lifetime I have sought
only the common good and with bare hands wrought
a kingdom, whose vast wealth now stands testified
by pagodas, innumerable, sundried
as the blades of grass - a permanent fortune
locked from the barbarians of the warring dune
by the joining of walls. So long as we strive,
we shall enjoy our fruits; and he will survive
who works on diligently - for Work is Life.
God gave them the hands, I have given them tools;
and none starves in this kingdom except the fools.
Our magistrates are just and good law is praised.
Our governors are wise and the stores are raised.
Here are the foundations for millennial peace!
Is there more a people will desire than these?

Said the Mandarin: There is nothing lacking
in the provision of the body, seeing
our middle kingdom bodily strong, sinewy--
but there is more to Kingdom and Man than Body.
When a people clutch all gods as money gods,
you must be vigilant. Pieties are not rods
to fish material things; they form a World-Soul
to which one gives assent and he is whole
who lives in fellowship: this, too, is your goal.
Great cultures are not hewn from a heritage
for sons, but for great-great-grandsons of due age.
Some investments then must always seem pointless,
a fling into the well, but there's some goodness
to be less than pragmatic. No work is ample
and no wall strong if you should slight the temple.

The Shorter Book of Job

Poor old God
He shouldn't have
With His long beard twirling
Around His staff
Been in love with His looks
It's the butt of our jokes
For given His age
He just shouldn't have.


A road is a false exit,
an annex of a Freudian building.
A building is a dream exterior,
a life similarly lit.

These, secret to the door -
the road not dividing or joining,
the building not awake, awakeable -
are your continuous floor.

Yet, as if from conscious theft,
you will run out of one, into one.
You no longer risk recognizing
an ordeal that has never left.

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