More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature



Arthur Yap


no stretch of darkened sky
would show a patch of red
a patch of sunset

where the sun will not stay
after dark
the skyline of houses
grows with the sky
and who can tell
what is this completion;
i cannot chew the month to days
masticate the days to hours
and line the hours each to each
saying, out of context, i die.
where once a single day
was a day and a night
it is now the amoeba of day
of night,
the line of sponge houses
soaks in the sky
as the sponge sky
seeps into the houses.
where once houses hung from sky
they now are clutches.
so one urban expansion
has to lean on another
or they die

while the tree of night grows and grows

[From Only Lines (1971)]

the coffee house, cockpit hotel

not a daily occurrence:
a bride waiting, 7.30 pm, at a coffee house.
you, shifting eyes, forkfuls into mouth,
stop. stop & watch the bride,
2 bridesmaids & an elderly chaperon
at the little round table
having a respite before the dinner.
her eyes, downcast, become modest behaviour.

immediately one floor down
dragon room is taken for the reception.
relatives line up at the entrance,
the men clutching proffered tins of rothmans.

twice, a hand gently steals out & pats
any suspected flaw of coiffure into perfection.
most of the time, looking at her gloves,
her eyes are downcast, cast downwards
one floor immediately below.

at the end of an elastic hour
will she rise, raise her eyes,
descend one floor, ascend the low platform
elevating the tabled 10 courses,
smile gently at the groom, post-sharksfin
& pre-crispy chicken & mark out clearly
her domain, right here & right up there?

[From Commonplace (1977)]

when last seen

three things he said & her reply
rang with domestic despair.
there he lurked, practicing his cruelty.
too suddenly her sadness overwhelmed
&, behind familiar things, a new keen
hate & that, subsiding, erased
her sadness. her regret & shame
seemed to flow through her fingers;
the prepared vegetables definitely tasted
too oily; her snakes-&-ladders emotions
the chequered dishcloth. three times the drain gurgled
& her request rang with clarity.
there he lurked, practicing his plumbing.
the snakes & ladders slithered down,
carrot ends & chillie seeds & onion roots.
as he got up she threw the dishcloth,
his face the draughtsboard. she saw distinctly
a softening of his features &, stepping forward,
shed all her tears into the sink.

[From Man Snake Apple (1986)]