LEON YUCHIN LAU
Leon Yuchin Lau is currently in his final year at Raffles Institution
(JC), Singapore. He was an international recipient of the Foyle
Young Poet of the Year Award, UK's top literary honour for
under-18s. His poetry has been featured by The Independent and
the British Poetry Society. Locally, he has been mentored by
Cyril Wong and Aaron Maniam under the Creative Arts
Programme mentorship scheme.
When ahma was sent into the fire everyone cried. I recall my aunt with her arms in the air, skeletal jaw swinging open, grouper-like, screaming her mother's name. After the burning we went to a little room to pick at the remains with chopsticks. We pretended to know which body parts we were picking. Skull, nape, coccyx. Each fragment a new bullet unearthed, rusty with secrets. I thought of Osiris, flesh scattered over Egypt in fourteen parts, and counted how many pieces lay before me. I held one up with the chopsticks and it felt weightless, air in stasis. I had a feeling that if I blew at it grandma might have shuddered.
I am staring at you from across the table. We are back at this again, wagering our defeats. McDonald's on a halfhearted weekday, you in a grey dress – you're always grey. It's your pallor, your eyes, your mischief. A pistol in the fog, a smokescreen. Let's just say I bestow you too many nicknames. Let's just say we would have been better off as bandits, buccaneers, the filthy people watching the grey rain wash their houses down, the grey pavements, grey cigarette, grey cancer in their throats. You're looking away now, fishing a reply. You're not speaking anymore. I would have believed you if not for the knowledge in your lips.
This city is full of regret. Regrets behind mirrors, dogeared between the yellow pages, the kind we digest deliciously after the children are tucked in. I watch jaywalkers with cutpurse eyes, and wonder if they get to sleep like others do at night. Each dawn is misty and I have trouble looking out the window; the horizon is a blurry art film of beer bottles. I close my eyes to imagine the skyline absent of smoke. Nothing enters the mind. Eyes shut, I plug my ears and pray. No epiphany either. For what the moment was worth I could have heard myself disappear.
*ahma – 'grandmother' in the Chinese dialect of Hokkien
Some evenings we find ourselves so commonplace,
notes under doors are tendered losses.
Some evenings the hall smells grey. I hear you mouth
the words to songs you said you'd never sung before.
I still have it on re-run in my head. The night no one spoke,
your moth-eaten shoes,
this taped refrain.
Woke up in yesterday's fragments.
An Ottoman battalion in my head.
A mottled crow, a moss-draped window.
Sunlight poured everywhere like molasses.
My scabline, anaphylactic in the heat.
The neighbour's cat, anatomised in the street.
I don't remember growing up in this city.
I shave neatly and earn my balance back.
Back to Front.