Tricia Tan Hui Ling is medical student from Singapore.
Her work has been published in Quarterly Literary Review
, The Kindling, and Singapore Unbound. Her
poetry manuscript was also selected to undergo Sing Lit
Station's Manuscript Bootcamp. Out of wards, she runs a
global health podcast and is active in community work.
She writes poetry as a way of being patient with the
histories of others and her own.

birth cert for my mother's cancer


When papa said go I wondered when
the baby would stop.

I wondered if cancer could be construed
as pregnancy, if the surgeons raised
the tumour like a faceless, bloodied Simba, gleefully
chalking circles of life in the OT sky.


After the cancer grew out,
we would find relatives rapturous,
video camera-ed Surprise! in function room light
rented streamers and baby shower
banners: Tumour's 1st


If surgery was a shotgun blowing,
the blood ran far and fast enough. I wondered
when the climax was. If anaesthesia was the prelude
or conclusion to waking.

Before this the surgeon said
Cancer comes with sacrifice.

It was as if function were
a barter trade—some bounty
we could split
with toddler fingers
like collectible cards.
A cornucopia of
disability distilled
to forms.

Sign here.


Mother concludes she might be left
as greeting card artefact. In many ways
we are always praying. Hope homing in
a swarm of nascent butterflies
I do not understand the stories she tells me
her syllables at half-pace, half-function.

When you get to fifty maybe you will understand

The way she saw it: mid-life flipping on
over and over, a faulty switch.

Pulling the curtains up, waiting
for actors to unwood puppet fingers
Pretend Toy Story, yell it's alive.

If life were a movie and the pixels
our moments, we sieved everything
we had to get to HD. We were portrait
with our best times. In each scene we wept
our faces wide and opening. Christmas presents
after the fact. Holding out for the credits scene
wishing so dearly to scoop ourselves
into the finality of its melody.


Wish, exhale, repeat.

We've mastered the routine to a fault.

A fault line refuses to split our snow globe open.

Every day we crack skulls over it.

Every swirl we say it's like snowdrops drowning.

That light can happen in slow motion and that's alright.

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