LEONG LIEW GEOK
Leong Liew Geok is the author of two volumes of poetry, Love is Not Enough (1991)
and Women without Men (2000). A tardy writer, she has only three dozen more
poems to complete before there are enough for a third collection, Passions.
31 x 62
While I was thirty-one,
You were under half a year;
An only child for two more years
Before a sister came
And further on, another
We're now matched
Roughly in the ratio of one to two:
Your thirty-one; my sixty-two:
Half or twice as old for the next
Five and a half months or so
How you'll look at my age,
Or when you become a grandfather
Is already quite beyond me.
Perhaps you'll see Halley's Comet
Twice in your lifetime –
Once more when you're eighty-four,
When I'll be gone, under half a century;
Perhaps you'll see the garden where you stood,
A kid, scouring the night sky,
Whose sisters and parents also looked.
Your forty to my seventy-one,
My eighty to your forty-nine,
Should life so stretch to turn
Me grey, then white before your eyes.
We won't meet like this again.
In my receding wake, you'll be claimed:
Husband, father and after long years, grandfather
When I may be lodged as memory;
Just once in our lifetimes,
We stand symmetrical.
He moves at home without his walking stick,
Watching every step. Each morning,
He swings arms, bends knees, turns neck,
Walks up and down, fingers tapping bald head.
Each day, he pops multivitamins, pills
For diabetes, gout, blood pressure, blood
Circulation, numb feet, cold hands, ailing liver;
Takes essence of chicken with cordyceps,
Premium bird's nest without sugar, Lingzhi
Powder, COC2, plus whatever else
He's heard or read about and bought.
From geriatrician to oncologist
To dermatologist Father-in-law goes, one hospital
To another. At home, he's busy with papers,
Magazines, books, news and TV soaps,
Or at the computer, reading stock prices to his wife,
Voice fraying into hoarseness.
With shrinking gums, his dentures hurt.
Father-in-law loves egg tarts, curry puffs,
Congee, but not red meat – bad for health,
Duck – bad for diabetics, watermelon –
Feet will swell. The post-lunch naps are sound.
At rest, fingers and thumbs shape airy
Pyramids as if in prayer. Eyes open
Or shut, does he think of ends and means,
Closing breaths, not opening eyes again?
Cancer is eating up his lungs. To anyone
Who visits, he's ready to go, he says;
Ninety-three, Father-in-law is not done.
And though I don't speak
Your tongue, I catch your song:
Your voice, a thorn moving into flesh
And heart; the chest, heaving to naught,
The eyes turned up or shut in prayer
And lungs about to burst;
You ask and ask why love
Like yours is so ignored.
She's not going to accept,
Not ready to be caught;
Not likely to sing in duet.
You must understand the plot:
Your words are hers to reject –
Her part's the pledge of never, never yet.
From your story you've been brought
To walk again among the living;
Untwined from the past, you enter a present
Rekindled as you step or swagger where your
Forebears stopped, business unfinished.
You live to complete what they couldn’t.
Growing older or old; from disease recovered;
Ravished by death; buried by offspring.
How two hearts will beat, your maker decides.
When cowherd and weaver reprise
Their meeting on the skybridge of magpies,
It is to draw love out – marry, mate,
Struggle, age, man and wife
Playing it loud and earthily.
Back to Front.