Ruth Tang's poetry has appeared in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. She has
also won at the 2016 National Poetry Competition Singapore and been longlisted
for the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's International Poetry Prize 2016.
She co-edited the SingPoWriMo 2016 anthology with Joshua Ip and Daryl Yam.

You Shouldn't Have to Fight Robots to See Something You Love
from Lin-Manuel Miranda's New York Times article about ticket bots

It's fight robots or not have tickets
to the story, Lin. My father taught me
not to punch machines. He liked

to make them cry with children's
books, else he traded them for
parts. They gave him oral

history, let him collect their chapters
like cereal-box prizes. There was no
whole, not yet; they had too much

memory and too much
time. Nothing could end. If
his book said full under

a picture of rabbits eating
knives, had adjective
died out? Knife noun is

eaten verb by rabbit
noun equals full adjective.
Worse was moon. Full

of what, they wanted
to know. Light. Distance.
Time. Now that, too,

was difficult. Love
was more teachable; it was
legs growing where

they weren't meant,
the matching page with only
rabbit: empty. When my

father wrote their history
down, he found the trick
to the eternal story —

Years, before

I could talk him down
back into his
corpse. Before

the robots came he'd told
me mortal stories,
our five most common

endings: those where I
lived, died, died
falsely, then died &
lived again.

Sixth was
aliens, only rarely defeated
by the common cold.


In some of our second
acts I am

In others I am
the wolf. Remade
into barter-
traded bride, steed,
knife that princes ride
home but do not
marry. I am
the wolf in love with
the prince, who made crows
fetch water to his
murdered body. I am
the crow fetching
stones to a bottle so
the water comes to
me. I am
the stone,

& I climb
into a story where I
am lover not
device, where
if I fall in
the water rises.


My father stands at the sink, peeling
a tangerine straight into his mouth. This next
line should be about my mother, if the rules
of thematic choice apply. So, then: my mother
peels tangerines and puts them into a bowl. Peels
them for everyone in the house
but herself. She can't eat them — not
without rationing half for now, half
for an as-yet-undetermined later. Peach,
golden pear, overripe mango: whatever's
in season. A knife, her hands: the fruit
sits, neat pieces, in my bowl. She over-
feeds me when my sister is away; I eat
it all. My father stands at the sink, peeling
a tangerine straight into his mouth. This next
line thematically undetermined.

Principles of Composition

In this example I am walking to the edge
of the poem to find where it
breaks, where it holds — I am a paragraph

with small hands and a revenge fantasy. A
verb that is running is a gerund; a noun that is saying
no makes breakfast after the fact

regardless. To change the story, omit needless
verbs. Parallel construction cannot do
without a comma, but do not entrust

the killing clause to parts of speech
which have had one drink too many. Be careful with
the passive voice; it may imply hierarchy. Your next

object lesson is, consent is notoriously reliant on word
order. Consider: get off me now. Here the only
permissible variation of emotion is

parenthesis; the verb of the sentence is not
the logic of the paragraph. Eggs and toast
on a green plate. I was the first and only pronoun.  

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