JOLLIN TAN


Jollin is a growing writer who feels most comfortable with confessional poetry,
although she constantly pushes her own limits and the perimeters of her writing.
Her first two poetry collections, Bursting Seams and Derivative Faith, are published
by Math Paper Press. Jollin's work can also be found in anthologies such as Body
Boundaries
, SingPoWriMo: The Anthology, Balik Kampung 3B: Some East, More West;
as well as curated for Prairie Schooner and the Singapore Writer's Festival.






Months Later

Scent peters out to scattered metonymy,
patches of distorted smell. Google says you can
get rid of odor with baking powder and vinegar.

I will find that this lifts mold I didn't even know
was on the surface of bookshelves. Memory congeals
and no longer reacts to what ifs,

things remain quiet in their roles. Wet dreams converge
and crystallise until they are dust motes
or eyelashes in the eye, mildly irritating, but

nothing a good shower cannot fix. I no longer
reach down and settle into that familiar hum. I no
longer recognise some words as his.

This is the achingly slow, waiting
for the yeast to grow in the bread
so we all have air pockets within which

to breathe. Waiting for the dough
to freeze so it holds its shape
in the oven.

I sit on cases of beer.
Learn to reanimate.






Jacob Dead
After Jack Gilbert's "Michiko Dead"

We manage by rolling your clothes tight,
smoked salmon strips in a ziplock bag, air sucked
out of them by the decapitated tube of a vacuum
cleaner. Moving on to the next pile, you sit
on them and then we flip the switch on
for longer. The plastic recoils, hugs your bermudas
and down jacket into wrinkles. The next case
and the next grow colourful with t-shirts
that now look very much like deadened, shrink-wrapped meat.
We lie on bags after bags, kneel on them, pack them
like Swiss rolls, like my metaphors of food
in poems of you. Anything to keep the air
out. Anything to eliminate breathing space. To not
think about the gap, which is an absence. And now we
return to the first bag, loose compared to the rest.
Examine its corners and stuff them tight.
Wonder how we missed the signs.






The Lover as Figured in Impressionist Terms

In the taxi home the radio station plays old pop ballads
about Peter Pan-Style longing, and the street lamps are gold
on wet tarmac, everything a glossy blur. It becomes odd to think
of myself as part of the scenery, squatting silly amongst the neon
bushes. There in that small space with the leaves on my neck
like cacti, I feel like a small lake hiding an ocean
of spinning gyres, like dancers extending their bodies to the ends
of their ribbons, leaking life. I am not terrified. I want to cross-hatch
myself into this colour scheme, a glowing twig or entire bright field.
One thought becomes porous in my mind and sweats
itself out in my breath: elsewhere, you by a window being stroked
by the sun's cat tail, your shadow moving as if to elongate, and
then running away.






Formulas for Memory Loss

A memory: myself, when I didn't quake so violently.
If a thought like this is tangible then it is believable.

A house, built and felled in your backyard,
before we moved and forgot. Wilfully.
If all this decay and fossil goes undiscovered
then no place like this exists to dent time.

We make sounds talking to each other,
fat, settled sounds, flat on the fake wood floor.
If they disappear, yellowed, into the laminate,
then we dissolve without trace.

My habit of talking into your skin and squirming
out of the heat in mornings.
If your amnesia is purposeful and easy,
then I am a figment untethered.

If we don't remember, we were never
there. If we never come home again, I will
stop wrinkling the space I occupy and slam
shut into a stretch mark.

If loss, then negation. This is how to operate.



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