Betty was born in England, of a Singapore Chinese mother and English father,
but grew up in Singapore. After a full career in physiotherapy, she retired to
write. While her works-in-progress include a memoir, short stories based on
life in the early days of Singapore, and essays, she presently concentrates on
poetry which she began writing in childhood. She has travelled widely and
has written of her experiences in Africa, South-East Asia, Japan, Chile and
Canada, but mainly writes of humanity and the universal human condition.

Her poems and other writing have won prizes and been published in Canada,
the United States, United Kingdom and Japan. Her feature article won first
prize in the National Capital Writing Contest in 2005, and in 2004 she was
recipient of the Diana Brebner Poetry award and co-winner of the Ray Burrell
poetry prize. Her poems were also short-listed in the 2004 Shaunt Basmaijan
Poetry Award. Betty's debut collection of poems, Red Lacquered Chopsticks,
was published by TSAR Publications, Toronto, in October 2006.

Santiago Traffic

Traffic lanes are well-defined
on Avenida de Santa Maria
before the daily rush-hour rev
from 7 to 10, and 3 to 9, when
loaded buses, bikes, and cars,
trucks and tourist coaches, hands apart,
heat auras haloed round them, sprawl,
weaving three lanes into four
almost five at times like the scrawl
from a child's first tight-fisted grip
of fingers fixed around pencil-tip,
escaping the straight of parallel lines.

A green bus glides to finger's width
beside the van I'm in, when the bulk
of my seat muscles immediately clinch
from fear of being skinned.
Yet, slim-hipped cyclists on hairline tyres
leaning hard on handlebars, swiftly skim
interstices laced before them,
like acrobats on high wires, whistling
with uplifted heads and an insouciance
that spontaneously creates
all the space they require to slip by
while I hold my harrowed breath.

Roadside Vignette

Closer than the wooden boards
of the roadside shack
they stand before, side by side,
arms parcelled round each other
front and back a Mapuche mother
and her grown daughter;
talk softly in Spanish patois; issue
of her womb growing still, closer,
even as they watch the sun descend
and slowly disappear below the hill.

Small Wash

Into the porcelain bowl of a dun-brown sink
rinsed of scum and calcium droplet rings
I dunk the whites in cool hard water dripping
from a worn-washered tap in a blue bathroom
with high mini-windows iron-barred to burglars,
and glass panes slid back to let the sun in.

Smears from sun screen seep into suds; smudge
from travelled-steeped vehicles, paint-peeled
cafe chairs on coffee-and-bocadillo streets
that ease the laden blades of foreign shoulders;
the sweaty hum and grub from lengthy hikes
on pot-holed, rock-strewn roads, soaked
into collar and cuffs continually towelling
the brow at peak of post-meridian heat.

In plunge the tans, now an earthy rust
with residue from ramblings
through thistle-and vetch-edged paths stippled
with the Us and double Us of horse shoes
where sombrero-ed caballeros have passed
and afternoon winds daily lift the umber dust,
and barbs that prick the weave and seed themselves
in socks Andean souvenirs of where I've been,
that I might otherwise be taking home, all
materializing in the wash, and streaming,
counter-clockwise, straight back to earth.


Ping Fatt Lee the apothecary
has a large jar of fine filigree
sun-dried seahorse skeletons
he uses in oriental medicine,
each spiny form, in foetal position,
succumbed in eternal asleep;
Neptune's mythical steeds, once
translucent and ethereal,
riding the watery deep,
plying their piscine tails
in the oceanic ebb and swell
happily minding their own business.

My grandmother who came from China
keeps her seahorses afloat
in sacred oil
on the altar of her ancestors
between candles that drip
and joss that daily renders
sweet sandalwood scent
aloft beyond the rafters
to move the hearts of gods
with countless whispered prayers
for a better life in future years
beyond this one; most of all
to return to the human realm
next time a man, complete,
like the male seahorse
whose belly swells and projects
his progeny of both genders
without remorse.

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