Wong Phui Nam was born in 1935 in Kuala Lumpur and his poetry
collections include How the Hills Are Distant (1968), Remembering
Grandma and Other Rumours
(1989), Ways of Exile (1993), Against
the Wilderness
(2000) and An Acre of Day's Glass (2006). His first play,
Anike, was published by Maya Press in 2006. He passed away in 2022.

Spirit Rampant
(After Chairil Anwar)

(For Grandmother)

It is not that death
has really found you out,
but you know acceptance,
understanding all.
Out of the ashes and the pain
of your mortality,
you are risen, sovereign
and boundless in your freedom.

Spirit Rampant

When the hour comes,
there shall be
no redeeming word, no help,
not even from you.

Done with mourning,

I shall take on,
with all its unreason,
the blind unregeneracy
of the beast
forced in upon itself
and rage, though guns
may open great wounds in my sides,
rage against dying.

Bearing all wounds, all infections,
I shall press on
till past pain,
past mere mortality,
I seize an inward freedom,
will to live
yet another thousand years.

At the Mosque

I shouted at Him
till he came.

We clashed, bearing head on,
face to face.

He glowed, a live flame
in the heart,
and would not be put out.

In great drops of sweat
I wrestled Him.
I would not
that I be broken to another's will.

In one single space,
in close confines,
I took my war to him.

Seeking each the other
to annihilate,
one became consumed with curses,
the other, mad.

I Will Have You Back

If you should want it,
I will have you back
with my whole heart.

I am yet alone.

You know you are not
as you have been before,
a flower no one else has looked at.

Do not look down.
Face me with your eyes, boldly.

If you should want it,
I will have you back
wholly to myself.

Not even with the mirror
would I want you shared.


This, our garden,
garden that holds
is room enough,
so small,
in it, one
will not lose
the other;
garden sufficient
to us
though the flowers
will not break out
in a multitude
of surprising colours,
and the grass
is not spread out
like a carpet,
firm, yet soft
to the tough of feet.
This is for us
no great matter,
as in our garden, garden that holds
you are the flower,
and I, the bee.
I am the bee,
and you the flower.
Small and close, full of the mild sun,
the garden is place
far from the press,
far from the noise
of the common, intruding world.

As You Gently...

As you gently
bite me
on the mouth,
you tough off
hate; erupting,
it swells over.
Why did I not
strangle you, who
by your excess of tenderness
cut into me
as into a wound?

Of Spirit

Sighting Li He's ghost

More a thought than horse and rider holding still
by the acacia among lallang and headstones on the ridge,
it fades into the arc-furnace brightness
of the afternoon. I know that cotton-white shock,
that face dried out by disease into a mask
of creased parchment. And the eyes...They have seen
things that should have remained unseen in clear daylight.
He is on dead ground, searching for ghost fires to feed
his poems, by which he survives as flame, as the pain
that burns still for his failures in the world, yet glowing
with fear and desire for oblivion. He has his horse stumble
through laterite, hell stones in our tropic sun, and finds
no autumnal consolation of a land dying to itself
in a shroud of mist that it may come round again in spring rain.

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