KOH JEE LEONG
Koh Jee Leong's poems have appeared in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
and Love Gathers All: the Philippines-Singapore Anthology of Love Poetry. His
chapbook, Hungry Ghosts, was a 2005 finalist in the Frank O'Hara Chapbook
Competition organized by the Pratt Institute. He holds a BA Hons in English
(Oxford University) and a MFA in Creative Writing (Sarah Lawrence College).
He lives in Queens, New York.
River Sighting by a Man Who Walked Daily
I came upon a young man sitting by the edge
of the river, his hair gleaming like gold coins,
body white against the granite bed, thighs slipping
into green water. Under the breeze-rippled leaves,
he studied a book as if to find his way back home.
Like seaweed rising from dark corals, rushes eddied
round him while geese, sea cattle, browsed on grass. He stretched
as though to throw a javelin. The river lapped
at him. I followed his gaze—on the opposing bank
a woman pushed a stroller. Her breasts, taut with milk,
jutted under her thin shirt like double prows.
He waved to her and swung out of the water, stepped
into his sandals. But the other man, no, fish,
flashing its salmon tail, slipped back to the estuary.
Another Sighting, This Time by a Niece
Diving out of the sun, the waiting room was dark
like underwater pictures in my storybooks.
Tom disappeared to the back after making sure
I had a magazine. Men followed him. I heard
ocean murmurings, at times, a dolphin squeak.
They spoke of finding themselves, as if lost, or wrecked.
Tom's rough voice sketched how he was stranded among men,
in bars last week, wishing his brother were with him.
He reads me bedtime stories every Sunday night
though I'm too old for that. I like real stories better,
how he and Dad fought over girls, how much he loves
and misses Dad. Tom hugs me as if his arms are short.
In his webbed hands, last Sunday night, before he left,
I hung round his neck, feathers unfurled in my chest.
Finding Recorded in a Ship Log
Finally Dylan falls asleep. I return and find
you sleeping too, after revealing who you are,
unraveling the knots that lashed us both together.
I look at you, the treasure of my deep-sea trawl,
and sort out the invertebrates, fish, corals, weeds—
the times you called the lab to say you were working late,
the grimace of your eyes whenever you groped my breasts,
the shadow swimming above your smile when I announced,
I'm late. You must be tired resisting the roll of the boat.
You sprawl in bed as on a lightbox, each muscle
delicate as scales, each gap a gasping gill.
Your loveliness must be preserved in formalin
and mounted behind glass, above the fireplace,
like a prehistoric monstrous white fish.
Amateur Ichthyologist Verifies Sightings
From the tangled brush, the sea was a sheet of glass
broken by black crescents like the visible coils
of a huge snake. The serpent swam from the abyss
of catshark, halosaur, fangtooth and lizardfish.
The coils kneeled forward, elbowed through the shallows, turned
to seals and rowed up the beach. So the records are true.
On every ninth night they came ashore and tugged
at hooks, peeled off the dogface and shook their hair free,
peeled off the seal-pelt, and stood up on feet. The sand
gleamed whiter round the compass of their stamping feet.
The breeze, heavy with moss and musk, breathed on flushed cheeks.
Last night, one stared straight into the brush and pointed
me out to the others. The circle opened to make room.
I could not move from where I crouched. Then I moved.
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