Nasri Shah is a student and writer educated in Singapore. He has been awarded the
10th Kanagawa Biennial Prize for art in 1999 and the National Heritage Board
Scholarship in 2009. His first love is words and is seeking to get his works published.
The Bird Watcher
We sail on a longitude drawn
from the tails of a great bird.
Expiring flock after flock, island
after island claiming solitude
is a beach waiting to drown-
we charm the muscle of clocks.
With time I chart the sound
of your breathing in a colouring
box. Your sighs canary yellow,
your sorrows bluebird feather.
Your frustration robin red
and your dreams aflutter
with the flame of a phoenix.
For some time this bird we
a century of desire.
Families we have left behind and
emotions we exile are no greater
than this fleeting, avian life
we promise to share.
I watch the birds that pass by
for a glimpse of us- the crow
I cannot look in the eyes; the
blackbird shifting our affections in
the night; the cygnet
with its false promise and
the vulture gutting our insides. For
some time now I have neglected
the penguins that never learn
to fly but of course, I should know:
flights that escape the hands of men
are the most irresistible kind.
The Ocean Collector
It has grown to the width of the sunset now: and
by width I mean the geometry that embraces both
hues of the orange yolk in the sky and the pink
evening at the far end of the afternoon's time-
traveling. Where previously two island shadows
collected themselves at the glimmering tear ducts
of the horizon each descending day, the ocean now
collects more memories of landscapes swallowed whole
by self-effacing metallic skeletons; that, in the
distance, compete with the height of the sun as
well as the moon, with hooks prodding the squints
of dead stars once sewn into the sky by your words:
"One. And another one."
The task of collecting this ocean's memories is
beyond my imagination, even though each day I partake
in the exercise of shading your shadow by the
ocean's landscape each day, and your halo of birds,
as you acquaint me with lessons the ocean brings:
that we will only be glad to suffer the fate of being
that all flocks fly home in any direction of light.
that our mess, in the waves of time, will only reach
someone else's waiting hands, and that
those hands may, after all,
turn out to be the right one.
The Metaphysics of Atheism
An atheist died today with the force of a flock of birds
flying towards the sea.
His parents cried knowing that he would not be found
in graves nor the bottom of trees: that someday they would
swim in oceans, rip away flowers that his ashes now feed-
that they loved a soulless body- or more precisely- a soul
that didn't want to exist.
The embrace of his arms that (he said) were consistent with
monkeys, the crushing of his thighs equivalent to
the big bang theory. You taste like stardust, he once
told his lover. And like stars, we are free to chart our
So will we die one day, in fear of our deeds? he asked
his parents, as a kid. (He was perceptive, even then)
Or will we live now, because we choose to believe in this:
That I will be a building one day, he said; that if you
bury me deep enough, you will find me within ceilings.
That if you go fast enough in space, there
will be no God to stop you from finding me.
That if I leave before you, it's not because I was taken.
And that if I love you, it's only because
it's the only thing worth believing.
Upon Discovering Loneliness in the Galaxy
The landscapes are finer,
and shriek when grateful
winds arrive. Here the seasons
fear one another and deprive
our sorrows of rain to free them.
Only the sand flowers- into stone.
Only life wilts into skin. If you try
hard enough, you may bleed like
the colour of our carbon evenings,
but why immolate the self in
a place like this? Instead, for the
person living in such alchemy, I
devise a cautionary for those who mean
to escape to better dreamscapes and
things. Once this was like Earth;
this planet his comparable twin. When it
came to fruition that she would
lose what Earth was beginning
to grant its people, she found
consolation in being empty. So,
leaving its poet with an absence
of light, you will never hear of darkness.
Granting one with the mere absence
of love, you may never have
to fear loneliness.
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