YONG SHU HOONG
Born in Singapore in 1966, Yong Shu Hoong has published three books
of poetry: Isaac (1997), dowhile (2002) and Frottage (2005). He has
written for The Straits Times and South China Morning Post, and
participated in readings and literary festivals in Malaysia, Hong Kong,
Australia, UK and the US.
With The End In Mind
- After the passing of Arthur Yap
So this is what it all comes down to:
A room on the fourth floor of Singapore Casket
Songs ordered by numbers in a hymnal
People whom you'd loved (or not really)
People who may or may not know your verses
hence the half-hour eulogy was useful.
People who love you more
People who love you less
encircling your coffin
like ants around a Toblerone.
Now I understand why
the Sunday before
I'd thought of death in my bathtub.
Do I now think there is a connection
between "death" and "sex" -
that other thing on my mind then?
Or that there is a link just because
they are the opposite banks?
The water, anyway, was getting murkier.
And aromatherapy did not work
because it smelt like myrrh.
At this funeral wake of a poet
there is no incense
nor is smoking allowed.
I think of chemotherapy
And Allen Ginsberg, his Death
& Fame, and final plans,
all his former lovers,
and the nephews he'd left behind.
I think I'd at least have five friends,
What I want is an acoustic band
singing Hallelujah or better still,
This is the first day of my life...
I see the framed photograph
I see again your spectacles frame
And wonder what flattery
is in tomorrow's cover story
etched from an obituary composed
way in advance and stowed
in a bottom drawer for offstone today.
I try to imagine
if my own clutch of roses will be a different yellow
when judged from every angle.
- July 4, 2006
Uncle claims that Grandfather had turned over
a new leaf, just prior to his death, and given up smoking.
So there's no need to toss cigarettes into the coffin -
even though there are packs remaining. No, the dead
doesn't need temptation for company, perhaps just
a new pair of glasses to keep the scenery in focus.
Still it's funny how I'd learned one day about the evils
of smoking in school, then thought of persuading
Grandfather to quit - except that no words came
and I turned and left his room, lived with the guilt
for years until I forgot, but still remember that his
Dunhill boxes are maroon emblazoned with gold.
Certain things I do not dwell upon -
like the question of hell or purgatory.
I imagine instead a sense of
reprieve, the flicking of a light-switch
to put on darkness and the catalogue
of dream songs, to be followed soon
by Grandfather's rhythmic patting
of my shoulder to inch me into sleep.
Were the strokes in time with seconds
ticking or the murmurs of my heart?
Too late for speculation now, I've only
succeeded in scaring myself thinking
an invisible hand would land. But
mostly I'm afraid to have to find my way
back to that boy not yet weaned
from bedtime stories and mosquito coils.
Every day in the time I had in Pittsburgh
I took my pick of bridges to get from Northside into downtown
Imagining I was really crossing perilous chasms
while beneath me it was only mystical water
Remembering reading somewhere that there are 450 bridges
in this city where three rivers meet
Knowing how in this off-centre of America
I was crossing bridges imagining Band-Aids over multiple lacerations
Thinking "I hear the city sigh!" while imagining Andy Warhol
crossing these bridges in his youth thinking the sky is a fickle colour...
Thinking bridges are stitches holding the seams together
Thinking what we hope to reattach in our lifetimes
while ceaselessly imagining or remembering bridges.
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