Tuesday 15 January 2013


We make an accidental stop
to taste coffee expelled
by the Luwak monkey
'Most Expensive In The World':
a tray of coffees and teas to tempt
the palate and the wallet;
But here, at this height,
we feel wealthy enough,
and soon heady drunk enough
on Arabica and Robusta,
for anything.
My heart gives out
on the way down to the paddy fields
and I return.
Dragonflies like birds
circle the rice
and visit me
in my bamboo cave;
What can be heard
but not seen -
the song of mosquitoes
enjoying me.
We take a different route 
you and I
when we pass through archways
or slip inside doorways
but we always meet
on the other side.
My sister-in-law asked me, oh so casually, if I wanted to join her in a family reunion in Bali. I booked that ticket so fast I can't decide if she was impressed or in shock since I normally live my life at the pace of a snail :) These excerpts are from my Bali journal, but the last image is of a butterfly I met in Kuala Lumpur. 

Friday 4 January 2013


Pieter Brueghel, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, 1560s

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The old Masters: how well they understood 
Its human position: how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along... 

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away 
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone 
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green 
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen 
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. 

- W. H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts 

Twice, in one week, I have come across this poem by Auden. First, it was quoted in the book I am reading - The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, and then today, in an interview with the newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey. The poem, she says, helped illuminate her own reality of enduring the grief of her mother's death (shot by her stepfather); an invisible grief, because 'The world was going on about its way while I was over there, this tiny individual suffering what seemed to me a huge loss, what was to me a huge loss. That poem showed me that I wasn't alone in feeling that way'.

For twelve years before starting my blog, I lived an invisible life with lupus. Intense suffering on the wards took place unbeknownst to anyone other than the family stalwarts. So I understand the ploughman's inability to see the 'boy falling out of the sky'. But I understand Icarus too. Last year I was determined would be the year I published my poetry. This year I make no promises. I long to touch the sun but some protective instinct keeps warning me about the fall. Published writers sometimes speak nostalgically about the days when they were anonymous mice, writing for a faceless imaginary reader. The perks of being a wallflower. I may have been a mouse for long enough, but I do love being able to write without pressure or commitment. It is quite delicious.

As are these days unwinding in Singapore and Malaysia with my beautiful sisters. (Of course, being with the brothers is not bad, either :))
Cheong Soo Pieng, Bridging Worlds Exhibition, 1981

Tuesday 1 January 2013


Paper Moon, Paper Moon,
Wishes made of these:

'I will see you in the trees,' he croons,
'And in every breeze.

I will see you when the lotus blooms 
And even at her death -

For you will never die,' he says,
'As long as I have breath.'

With two brothers close in age married and settled into the rhythm of loving and being loved, it is inevitable that I get asked about my 'status'. For example, at the hairdressers yesterday, very succinctly: 'Single? Married? Single-ah? Ah, single.' I suppose I ought to be flattered that people think there is some possibility that I may be dusted off the shelf someday.
While the moon gets to work on possibilities, I listen to the koyal crooning afternoon love songs, and measure the full weight of my contented heart...
Dad has found ways to connect with his grandson involving food, high fives and a shared fascination with the white stick, while I have found ways to touch starfish and place my hand fearlessly in an alligator's mouth...

I enjoy the wonder of spending time with women I love... the pomes and poems of my life...

So the Paper Moon can search for me. Or not. Either way, it is a Happy New Year's Day for me :) And I wish the same for you.