Koh Xin Tian is in her final undergraduate year in the National
University of Singapore, where she was the NUS Literary Society's
chairperson from 2007-8. Her writing has appeared in The Smoking
, Theatrex Asia and Argot Magazine.

Balestier Market

At first I thought it was red tofu,
or some black jelly, wobbling
in a round tin. The floor spreading wetly
from the back, a concrete table draped with parts,
skin their only wrapping: a trotter
extended like a handshake,
a head on its side, a small
smile, the solidity
of the blood almost like
that firmness left in the legs,
still pink, nearly
the shade of flesh.


You tell me to wait, tottering
into the Ladies on heels that tilt
you forward like a penguin about to dive,
your dress hem a wing trying to fly

though its feathers are too short.
Tonight you are bringing me to a gathering
of lace, powder and different notes of Chanel.
You've come a long way, baby,

waist slim as a cigarette
falling from its two-fingered perch,
your bright pink bow flouncing,
holding your Monroe gown tight.

I signed the tailor's bill. Your bouquet
wilts a little. I toss your last roses
onto the back seat. At your next event
rouged faces will murmur:

She always liked ceremonies.
My wrapping stiffens around me,
smelling of your detergent, perfumy
but inert. Here comes the bride;

each emerging leather step burns
iron marks in the carpet.
Bean-shaped drops from the chandelier
melt and scatter like tears

for lipstick Os to gasp at.
I take your pink satin arm
into my limo, windows gleaming
like neon blood, or a nice Chianti.


If the light can pierce the glass,
it dribbles into a warm spot.

Sofia knows the smell of cold air
through the window's wire netting.

The water beneath bites skin;
a fall would send a rafter into shock.

The bed's smooth rocks are frozen lava
below the Class Threes crashing

onto rubbery skins, like prehistoric heat
on scaly necks swaying across the waves.

Above, the pines drink volcanic soil
and are smoothened into walls

that let the chill in. Sofia laps it up,
clawing flies like an animal.


i. day

The first rooster's call I ever heard was
from your house where you slept alone
on a floor with scattered bills and pictures
of a woman and child. I crept out to the hall
where a black catfish turned regally
in a glass tank filled with its wastes slowly rising
in thick grey gusts. It was the silent witness
of what had happened in the house you left behind-
it must have swallowed the dregs to follow you.

ii. bonfire

In the grass, broken tiles and fragments
winked at us, shining crazily in the sun. That night you burned
a pile of rotting leaves from your garden; the jubilant fire
waved at us in the silent dark.
My only reminder of you is your book
of idioms I tried to memorise until I grew tired
of pieces of wisdom that never came together
to explain anything. You became the shadow
that watched me as I read it- you became
a half-monster, a madman speeding
through lamplit streets,
a stain on the tar.

iii. light

One morning I tried to offer you a cup of water
but you shrugged it off when it smashed and broke.
An engine sputtered and growled; the sun peeked through the dust
and bobbed up cheerfully like a murderer.

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