HO REN CHUN
Ho Ren Chun is a Singaporean-born writer and lawyer based in London.
He has published in journals such as Quarterly Literary Review Singapore,
Porter House Review, Acumen, After the Pause, The Cambridge Pamphlet,
and in anthologies like A Luxury We cannot Afford (2014) and Poetry Moves
(2020). He received the Cambridge Brewer Hall Poetry Prize (2017) and has
been nominated for Best of the Net (2020) and Best New Poets (2021). Ren
Chun was the founder of the Cambridge University Poetry and Prose Society,
the first university-wide literary society.
Cycling With My Father
The squall of wind comes through sunburnt trees. A changing of gears. Life is often like this: long cycles cleaved occasionally by spilled light. As we crest the hill, I cannot help but notice his strong calves, a sense of enduring fight. In small wars, for things bigger than ourselves, we are sent the longest distance. Now the roads give way to green; we surrender words to fresh air. The sun leans heavy upon reddened earth. We come across junctions with their cloven tracks and divergent rails—hauling our bikes up by the handlebars. Long ago he taught me how to ride without holding on. It is about gravity: about going along with the motion. We have our differences, and our similarities. But so it is, even with the flow of the rivers and their tributaries. At this point, we've found ourselves parked at the side of the coast, two kingfishers perched at shore. Looking out at that sea, I knew I had many more miles to know more. Not his familiar turns of phrase or too-human penchants, the favourite cuisines or the reframed ideologies. To know by time the weight of the gaze upon the container ships and industrial cranes : candid spellings of failure and second chances. Both the regrets being released back into the waves, as well as the hopes sustained, by raft, across so many successive oceans. Yes, as I've learned, we are always in motion : just like the herons attached to both ascent and descent. To cycle means to know there are times you will hit indentations upon the road, or face the steep climb. Evening shadows beginning, we too commence our way back, weaving through the traffic. I kept my eyes locked on my father's back. There is a loneliness to cycling ahead, though you pull those behind, cutting the lease with inertia, shielding against the wind. At times slowing down, conserving strength; at times swivelling on detours through boulevards littered with bougainvillea; at times racing against others and your own self. And then there are some times where you aren't thinking of anything much at all. Rushing downslope, heart careening, the melding of vision as lines converge; narrowing the distinction between man and wind; son and father.
We walk on looking for reminders
of our flesh in the respite
of the old Thonburi alleys
tumbling through pagodas
and the Portuguese quarter
wondering how far they sailed
in search of spice - multiple
generations of bloodletting
softened by hands intertwined:
your own hand in mine,
as rare as the curved thorns
that sprout miraculously
from the cracks in statues
even as we lamented time.
I must remind myself
that nothing here is for us.
After all, our blooms only grow
as hasty moss in old stone's gaps.
If I forget, I'll find myself swimming
again on my back, peering at cerulean
skies conjured for you and me.
This is nothing special.
Sailors too waved goodbye to those
they loved, beneath stalactites
ever inching to join earth.
The fountain whistles, just
because of the friction of the air
and substance. It is not a call to
our diaphanous bodies, themselves water,
to flow; not a song for these bones
scratched prescient with music,
not a sign for us to dream.
For thousands of years, just as today,
the sunset has poured itself
a vermillion lake over the surfaces
of a spinning world. I must remind
myself we only think we are awake.
For now, we walk on.
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