inspired by random and some not-so-random events and people in my life

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ingratitude (formerly entitled Untitled 1)

Like nestlings
They cackle and caw
Mouths agape
Bottomless maws

“What’s taking you so long?”
“Isn't that your job?”
“You chose this. Why complain?”

You forget -
No one chooses to be taken for granted.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Existential Crisis of an ATM

For those of you who asked when this would be written, the moment to do so had not yet arrived. Today it did.

Busy corner
Long queue
One after another
People came and went.

Familiar footsteps
Familiar face
Déjà vu

For a moment there
So many things to say
How was your day?
How was your week?
How has your life been?
Would you like
Some care and concern with that?
Do you still cry yourself to sleep?
Wanna go for coffee?
So many words
Choked up, in a lump

Whirr, click, cha-ching
Interrupted by
Sighs of impatience

Do you want a receipt?
The moment was over.

I dispense, therefore I am.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Thank You For Nothing

"Thank you"
What any two people
Strangers notwithstanding
Would say, if only to be polite
What more two people
Who have nothing left to say to each other
Face to face.

"Thank you"
I had no idea it was a loaded weapon
That would backfire.
For nothing
I got shot instead.

To A Sanctimonius So-and-So

My dear readers, you may need a dictionary to read this one, but, fear not, it will greatly improve your vocabulary lol.

We don’t fit into those nice neat boxes
You have prepared for us, labeled.
The world is in shades of grey
Not black and white
No matter how much you pray.

Those who lie may not be liars.
Those who mock may not be cruel.
Those who question may not be faithless.
Those who criticize may not be uncaring.
Those who stray may not be unfaithful.
That which you do not understand
May just be different, not wrong.
Ignorance may not be bliss.
So before you throw the next stone
Think twice.

For I will not be judged by
The narrow-minded
The intolerant
The easily offended
The insular
The small of mind
The bigoted
The parochial
The reactionary
The prudish
The holier-than-thou
The devoutly hypocritical
The self-righteous
The unthinking.

Most of all, I will not be judged by you.
I pray you don't grow up to be a shrew.

"Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others." -- John F. Kennedy

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Swimming Lessons

I spent 37 years learning how to swim. You could say I’m an expert at swimming lessons.

Lesson #1
You can’t learn to swim without getting wet.

Lesson #2
Funny thing, water
The more you fear it
The more you fight it.
The more you fight it,
The more you sink.
Trust, just trust.


When chances breathe between the silence - Elton John

In the space you need
I can only hear the silence,
and in the silence,
the deafening roar of absence.

The sound of time ticking away
Reverberates in my mind
Loud and clear.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Blast from the Past

Your trip to nowhere brought these scenes back, in a flash….

East Coast Park, blue skies, aged 18:
Walkman, music to the ears
Bicycle wheels whizzing to the sound of
Michael Franks, Stephen Bishop
Down past Big Splash
Up to Bedok Jetty
Salt in the air, salt in the lungs
Salt in the eyes
Waves crashing on the breakwater

Changi Airport, rainy day, aged 19:
Planes taking off
Runway blues
Hands fumbling to dial
Heart in mouth
One hour later
Flight of fantasy

Singapore, two a.m., aged 20:
Two friends, one car
Competition and camaraderie
Convertible with top down
Wind through the hair
Everything But The Girl
playing on loop
Prata and kopi peng
Ten cigarettes later
Home alone

Friday, September 16, 2005

Withdrawal Symptoms

Whatever or whoever your poison, this one's for you. God bless us all :)

Fingers twitch
Mind wanders
Something aches.

Will weakens
Hand reaches out.
Opportunity lost
For better or worse.

Look longingly
Look surreptitiously
Breathe in, take in

Breath gets shallow
Heartbeat quickens
Instant head rush
Temporary relief

Two hours later
Fingers twitch
Mind wanders
Ache returns

Symptoms repeat themselves.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vending Machine Angst

Deserted corridor.
Fluorescent light on the blink.
Vending machine sits alone.

Footsteps down the corridor
Coins fall
Buttons pushed

With milk
Without milk
With sugar

All quiet again.

They come,
They go,

Vending machine sits, alone.

Next installment: The Existential Crisis of an ATM

Hurricane Watch

A friend of mine once said, in a play he wrote, “The problem with Singapore is that there are no natural disasters.” He was talking about Singaporeans being complacent and whiny. There's nothing like a regular dose of Mother Earth's fury to correct any human arrogance and instill humility. Character-building, that's what we call this in school. I'm not sure how long human memory retains such lessons learnt. All I know is that the absence of such phenomena breeds a morbid obsession with disasters of all sorts, natural or otherwise. 9-11, Bali bombing, Boxing Day tsunami, London bombings, Hurricane Katrina - you name it, we watched it, on CNN, BBC, CNBC, Channelnewsasia.

I was no exception. One of my minor fantasies in life was to experience a hurricane, not an earthquake, because that would be completely unexpected and sudden. A hurricane - I could anticipate and savour the impending doom. I could relish the gradual build-up of power. I imagined myself going down to the beach, in the early days of the hurricane watch, to observe the storm surge, to gaze in awe at the unnaturally huge waves crashing onto and over the breakwaters, to be buffeted by the force of the swirling winds. I imagined myself sitting it out as the hurricane beared down, barricaded in my home, refusing to evacuate, shaking my puny fist and daring Mother Nature to do her worst. Man against Nature. It would have been an exhilarating experience - I had no doubt of that.

Well, what do you know? I've gone off hurricanes. No need to ask why; 'nuff said. What I am left with is the realization that hurricanes come and go as they please. They are acts of nature, oblivious to the world, impervious to human plea. They chart their own path, their will be done. You rave, you rant, you wait to be acknowledged, but you are insignificant against the implacable force of Nature.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Of Castle Walls

The splendour falls on castle walls.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Oh princess
You have built for yourself
Ring upon ring
Of castle wall
To keep out that
Ancient loathsome dragon.

Green scales
Huge teeth
Fire breathing
Rapier-like talons.

Your heart beats faster
Confusion reigns
You think it’s fear.

Who’s been filling your head with such nonsense?

For every little girl knows
Deep down inside
That dragons are fiercely loyal
With hearts of gold.

Every little girl knows that
The way to avoid the dragon’s scorching breath
Is to be held close, safe within the curve of its tail.


Knights in shining armour
You welcome with open arms
To keep the dragon at bay, you say.

Anything to keep your mind off that damn dragon?

For to save a damsel in distress
Many men will flock to your doorstep.
Your hand in marriage.
The honour and the glory
A kingdom, for to gain.

To them, you listen
Mind filling with their prattle,
Their hairy chests inflated,
Of battles lost and won
Of gallantry and balladry.

Your heart swells with love
Or so you think.
You simper, you preen.

Without the castle walls,
The dragon awaits


Of castle walls
What price, your freedom?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

What do you see when you look in your mirror?
Isn’t it odd how no one else can ever see what we ourselves see?

Do you like what you see?
Do you see what you like
Or what you hate?

Do you see your future
Your present
Or your past?

Do you see your desires
Your hopes, your wishes
Your failures or

Does it scare you to think that
No one else sees the loneliness
The longing and the fears?
Does it hurt you to think that
No one else sees the beauty inside?

Do you see the hard line of your lips
‘Neath the softness of your brow?
Do you see the coldness of your eyes
Masked by the warmth of your tears?
Do you look beyond the façade
Of pretty face
Nameless grace?
Could it be the truth
that you fear?

Take a good hard look.
Beware of mirrors that lie.
Look away sometimes, if you must
But don’t be afraid to look anyway
As long as there’s someone there who cares
Beside you
Looking at you,
Looking at yourself.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cats - An Acquired Taste

Dedicated to Babyface and Damienne

By definition

They ignore you when you call
Slink around your legs
When you least expect it
Rub up against you when it suits them
Take a bite out of your hand when it doesn’t.
Purr and roll over
Tease you with a flick of a tail
Slink away in disgust
To leave you grovelling in the dust.

For unconditional love doled out by the dollop
Get a dog or a teddy-bear.

A sucker for cats?
Must be a masochist
Like me.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

C&C: Coffee and Conversation

My namesake - this one's for you

Coffee Bean it is,
once again.
I’m not complaining.

High on caffeine
And the aroma of something.
Was it the coffee
Or something else?

Two focused
One restless
Peace and quiet
Some work done.

A hiatus
Earnest conversation
Heated disagreement
Unexpected laughter.

In the end
Three people
Two connecting
One network failure.

No matter –
The lighting was perfect.
The coffee hit the spot.
Thank you for our conversation.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder

Dedicated to those who fill my life with beauty everyday

“Not too big”
“Not too small”
“Not too short”
“Not too tall”
“Must have hair”
“Not at all”

Appearance is everything
To the young.
Even so, subtle, they are not.
How does one even explain

A flash of fire in the eyes
A thoughtful tilt of the head
A steady gaze
A peek of the collarbone
A knitting of the brow
An unexpected grin
The soft crook of a neck
The gracious curve of an elbow
The way hands look as they work
The way a watch sits on a wrist
Can make one catch one’s breath?

Only with age do we learn that
Beauty is anything
But skin deep.

Beauty is talent,
Waiting to be unleashed
Waiting to be nurtured.

Beauty is spirit uncowed,
Independence of mind
Heartfelt passion.

Beauty is intelligence unbridled,
Of thought-fulness
Of ideas brewing, consolidating.

Beauty is the courage
To throw caution to the wind
To tame those demons.

Beauty is the willingness to laugh
At oneself
At the world with its idiosyncracies.

Beauty is vulnerability.
Not neediness
But moments of weakness,
Of need revealed
Despite carefully erected walls,
The posturing.

Beauty is, in the eyes of this beholder,
Life wrought large.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Emergency Relief

Thank god for Teachers’ Day.
More band-aid moments to heal a hurt.

You’re not only a teacher
you’re a good friend to us all.
Thank you, my friends.

Your motivation and drive are the things that motivate me
to study and achieve.
I will remember to be
a good role model always.

When we don’t do our work
you don’t scold us.
You make us feel guilty
without making us hate English.
Emotional blackmail,
the teacher's ultimate weapon

Although you scolded me many times,
I don’t hold any anger against you.
I hope you will also not hold any anger against me.
Never would I do that.
Stay angry? I can't.
A softie, I am, inside.

Thank you for all your help and
the extra lessons you gave us
at Holland Village.
Oh it was really an excuse to
eat kfc
drink coffee
hang out with you guys.

And of these all, my favourite
Which moved me beyond tears.

Without you
I would still be lost in this world.
You give meaning to my life.
You all do.

With love, your teacher

Band-Aid, Thank You

The week started with many broken pieces,
Teachers are human too, you said.
With those four words, you made me feel just that, human again.
You laugh un-selfconsciously, even when it’s just the two of us.
You smack me lightly, when I tease you.
Acceptance and affirmation.
Trust and tenderness.
Band-aid moment.

Friend, I thank you.