Joshua Ip is mostly a tourist and occasionally a poet. He is the only two-time winner
of the ACS(I) National Day Propaganda Song-writing Competition, for the critically
acclaimed Look To The Sky (1997) and Tree of Singapore (1998). He is struggling with
his hypothetical second poetry collection, making love with scrabble tiles.

simultaneous equations

if a train sets off from joo koon at 8.21
and another train sets off from changi airport at 8.25
if the first train is traveling at 120 km/h
and the second train is traveling at 100 km/h
and the distance between changi and joo koon is 40km
—at what time will the trains pass each other?

if a kettle has a capacity of 3 litres and takes 2 minutes to boil
and a pot has a capacity of 2 litres and takes 3 minutes to boil
and a tap is pouring into the kettle at 100 ml / sec
and another tap is pouring into the pot at 150 ml / sec
—what time should joshua turn on the taps for the kettle and pot to boil simultaneously?

the working was already there in her head
and just needed to be written down,
two lines of differing gradient intersecting at a point
collision, expanding water masses
so she looked at the boy beside her
to see how he was coming along.

jotting down his final answer
before they called time
and all the pencils came down as one,
he heard rather than saw her
scratching the same shapes as him into her blank,
hands shaking, sharp release of breath.

at that time, what strange serendipity,
or mathematical design, he thought
for two people to arrive
simultaneously at the same answer

tai ji

even at morning tai ji
she filled his absences,
imagining—left hand behind his neck,
right hand at his waist
turning him, a change,
reverse the waltz
then long vertical strokes,
her shaking wrists
bending where his fingers would rest,
painting the strobe and shadow of his ribs,
his chest, falling and
rising within her curling arms,
there with her, completing the circles,
filling her empty embrace.

the singaporean talks to the african about rivers

there are none in my country, only ditches.
so when you say desire is the river
that swallows in its wake all other rivers,
i say that sounds much like an overflow ditch,
which may or may not be considered a canal,
uncomfortable for casual swimmers, rife
with trash, incapable of supporting life,
—but i do, i do get your analogy.

after great rain, a storm drain's swelling comes:
a single blockage of that gutter makes
a city-full of what you might call lakes
and i call ponds—who gives a dam (or bund)
what we call what we know to be desire?
but i fear more the silent desperate smoulder
than the open flame. water or fire,
the ways of want change not by plain or polder.

the unseen still outweighs the salient swirl—
such is with continents as is with isles
for after all i understand denial
is still the longest river in the world

plastic bags

this i learnt from you, and not my mom:
to take the plastic bags from groceries
and fold them into housewife triangles
then leave them in a drawer and forget them
where in a post-apocalyptic future
alien archaeologists will unearth them
wondering at these dainty, elegant
and non-biodegradable artifacts.
they will empty all the neatly tucked-in bits
onto the still-glowing surface of the earth
and reconstruct the history of mankind
amazed at what wise culture could conceive
of such faithfully replicated folds.
academics go wild with far-fetched theories
while, a veritable industry springs up
shuttling tourists from the furthest planets
to marvel at the terran triangles.
religions rise around their geometry.
poets and prophets worship at their creases.
the galactic government is prevailed upon
to declare a festival to commemorate
earth's near-forgotten summer solstice
where ancient humankind's long-extinct lovers
cold storage girl and ntuc boy
unite at last across the milky way
on a bridge of floating plastic triangles.

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