LEAVES

we walk alone together

Love After Love
Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

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watched a play, tried to process it, here i go

drunk enough to say i love you is fundamentally about language. the bureaucracy, selfish and hypocritical, manipulates language to create the meaning they need; love, also wrangled by the violence of language and violence against language, is politicized. all language is broken, incomplete, there is too much space to fill in the blanks, too many decisions one must make about what anything means at any moment. the power to break language, the power of language to break (people).

“here where to love at all’s to be a politician, as to love a poem
is pretentious, this may sound tendentious but it’s lyrical”

Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets, Frank O’Hara

race/ chinese/ otherness/ idk

I remember saying to someone last term in 2016, “I’ve never felt more Asian, I’ve never felt more Chinese [than now, being here in the UK].” I’m still not sure how I feel about the persistent sense of Otherness that I’m almost becoming used to. Kind of like a pebble in your shoe, only this shoe is sealed shut onto your foot.

I am proud to be Asian, and Chinese. And I think there is a sort of reverse supremacy mentality in me, a belief that the East trumps the West. I feel ambivalent and even unapologetic about it, I guess because reverse racism isn’t a thing. I became aware of this even before coming to the UK, and it’s always been a mentality coloured by indignance, even anger. It’s not an indignance I fully understand yet – because where could I have acquired it? Giving my privileged status as one of the racial majority in Singapore, plus my middle (or upper-middle, I’d argue, though tbh I’m not concretely clear as to my family’s financial status) class background, where did this inferiority complex and accompanying anger come from? Why do I feel belittled and underappreciated by/ in comparison to white people?

(disclamatory thought – that my concept of ‘Asian’ is likely skewed because I largely identify with Chinese, Japanese and Koreans despite coming from a multicultural nation, + I haven’t educated myself proper yet in terms of definitions, geography, etc. still processing my prejudices, blind spots.)

Perhaps it stems in part from my existing inferiority complex with regards to achievement (of all kinds: intellectual, aesthetic, etc.). Or perhaps it comes from consuming media that largely depicts Chinese people as subservient/ aesthetically inferior/ ‘uncool’/ nerdy. The one thing I can be sure of is that I am angry, and being here has only sharpened my indignance. It’s rather productive – I think soon I will use my rage to carve out something meaningful.

My thoughts are still scattered, so for now I will employ a list, for the sake of compartmentalizing ideas.

1.

I dislike it when I am treated differently because of my race – whether unkindly or otherwise. “Konnichiwa” is unacceptable (and utterly infuriating), but over-attentiveness and over-sensitivity is equally troubling. It still Others me, places a warped hierachy between us – a king tiptoeing around a prince for fear of being seen as overbearing or abusing power. (bad analogy. still working on it ya.) A fear of being seen as a disrespectful privileged person – isn’t that more for your own sake than for mine?

*this thought must be credited to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who put into words a discomfort that has been plaguing me

**therefore tq english department + modes of reading for making us read her interview ha hahhah ahaha i can’t deal, i’m so nerdy i love and hate myself at the same time so much cringing and cackling in my head

I will quite often say, ‘You know, in my culture it shows interest and respect if someone interrupts’: and immediately there are these very pious faces, and people allow me to interrupt. It is not as if we don’t perceive the homogenization; we exploit it, why not?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

2.

Tokenism – I know it’s kind of inevitable given the absence of Asians in the drama societies and my course (okay actually no – probably need to think more about this given how many Asians speak – surprise! – English nowadays and take up such a large portion of the student body) and partially my over-sensitivity but God it feels so weird and troubling to be the one Asian person in a rehearsal/ seminar room/ helping out at school events. I’m always there thinking, “wow I really diversify the look of this class/show/event/school.” I feel reduced to my physical body, which is something I’ve never had to experience in Singapore.

And there is guilt here, to be whining about this when Singaporeans of non-majority races have endured this for so much of their lives. When I have grown up safe and unthreatened by, even unconscious of, race.

3.

Really resent how conscious I become of my English when speaking to British students. Hell, I’m deeply proud of my command of English and the quality of writing I can produce both academically and creatively. Still I alter my accent out of fear, self-consciousness, and precisely out of a desire to be recognized as someone with an elegant grasp of English, language I love and have known all my life.

Then: why must someone who is good at English sound/speak in a certain way, in a particular accent? Why are white people preferred as teachers of the English language even when they are less adept and qualified than an English-educated Asian person? What does it mean to be a “native” speaker of any language? Why should it matter?

4.

Tangentially from 2.: who gets to have blonde hair? Because bleaching my hair has made me conscious of a fear of looking like a “white wannabe”. Just as some people regard Asian beauty standards as reflective of a desire to look “white”, I feel going blonde as a Chinese person (i.e. someone who hair genetically pretty much only occurs as black or a dark brown) can be read in a similar way. (But then again what is Chinese? What is race? (a construct! okay i’ll stop for now) )

no good conclusion to this post. still processing and thinking and mulling and reading and eventually i will have better answers. also after this personality/style experiment with hair colour (i could do a post on this, maybe i will), i might do another by either 1. growing my hair really long and girly, or 2. chopping it to a pixie/masculine hairstyle. woo hoo.

p.s. really want to share poems here but am saving them for other platforms at the moment; will put something up in due time!!! promise

food/ self-love

I don’t know why I’m propelled to write here again, and to write a proper blog post-y thing, at that. o well.

I’ve had a good food day. By that I mean a good Food Day (a food day that has been good, not a day of good food). I had two hardboiled eggs, a small cup of ginger greek yogurt with half a banana, and a cup of lemon green tea for breakfast. For lunch now I’m having a cup of milo (kosong, i.e. with no milk or sugar), a small amount of oats with honey, apple and blueberry muesli and the other half of the morning’s banana, as well as baked parsnips seasoned with soy sauce and olive oil (not delicious, still yet to figure parsnips out. using a cheese and chive dip to get through it).

Maybe it was just the joy of getting the oats cooked exactly how I like them, or the narcissistic pleasure of standing there like a wannabe vegan (many thoughts about this, and income disparity), but I felt spiritually warm, alive, loved.

For the most part of my life I didn’t care about food in a big way, though I enjoyed the usual range of ‘bad’ foods: fries, McDonalds’ hotcakes, fried chicken, ice cream, chocolate, etc. It was something I took in and found some pleasure in, but otherwise didn’t think much about or invest any energy/ spirit in.

The years of body image issues came, what with ballet, being in a girls’ school, uninformed consumption of media, unwarranted comments about my acne, my body, my clothing size, etc. It’s still something I have to work with but it has less power now.

(I think most women still kind of count their calories, even if they don’t. They eat risotto with a fork, insist on exercise on ‘bad food’ days, deprive themselves of chocolate because they’ve had bread earlier in the day, pinch their arms as they have alcohol.)

Two years ago, someone warm and good came into my life, someone who loved cooking (though not eating) food, someone passionate about nailing flavour and texture and balance. Spending time with her increased my sensitivity to flavour, and I came to understand, in a way, the science of flavour and cooking.

In these months at university, my range has really…expanded? Both in terms of technique and types of food. And I feel truly happy that I can cook good things for myself. I believe more and more that learning to cook for and feed oneself healthy and delicious food is a form of self-love. It opens up a dimension separate from all other modes (exercise, rest, leisure, etc.). I feel spiritually even more whole now. More areas of the spirit aligning and linking up. (The word “spiritual” is dissatisfactory, too fluffy and mystical in meaning. But it will have to do.)

It reminds me of when I sat at Bras Basah Complex during the winter break, furiously typing an email to one of my university professors.

I find myself, now, constantly floating a little off the ground: I no longer inhabit unconsciously but exist as a third person; I see things new always. Everything is continually foreign and therefore noticeable, novel, interesting, fascinating. Even the most banal crevices have been recast.

“Transcendence,” he called it later. The word should have occurred to me; I don’t know why it didn’t. And I sound rather calm in the bit I’ve pasted above but the rest of the email was just…stream of consciousness rambling, as though in a fit. A spiritual seizure.

Nourishing and loving myself with food feels a little like that now. I’m aware of other elements though, like the remnants of body image problems, the pressure to “be healthy”, to actively pursue and be seen pursuing a healthy life, and what is possibly a false or unhealthy sense of “achievement”. As though eating well is an accomplishment akin to finishing an essay, or completing a task on my to-do list.

A little incoherent now. Feels weird, nonetheless.

Regardless!! I feel grateful, and happy, and loved. More thoughts soon.

Learning to cook for yourself, to gather raw ingredients and create your own nourishment, is one of the truest forms for self-love. Like other forms of independence it displaces parental figures and replaces with the self; you come to be your own nurturer, friend, mentor, lover. You hold yourself accountable for your actions, you challenge yourself to grow further and in new ways.

it’s been quite some time since i posted anything here. there’s been a drought, part-laziness, part-anxiety about other things overriding, part-fatigue from this rewarding and difficult gap year.

i’m writing things now, again, a good amount of it is pouring forth. i’m not certain if i’ll share much here. there are thoughts of transcending this space for a while. i’d like to replace the screen with paper.

nonetheless i will be back, i hope, and i’ll bring more news on that day. for the time being maybe my old work will entertain/ engage you.

singpowrimo 2016, day 5

Today, you are simply asked to write a poem that states the things you know to be true.

Bonus: Reference Donald Trump without calling him a name.

The basin is not the balm is not the
bath is not the meal not even the poem,
only the midpoint of two large swimming
pools: one, you, the second, still you
but with a blue Vespa that takes thirty-seven
seconds longer to find parking. The forest
split by a fence, across which there you are
in your one-piece, drowning.

That pinging sound through your cranium.
The meagre song sung at the funeral as the
pinging kept beat. I know you would not have
wanted this. The basin is where I taught you
to swim before you flew and fell, the likeness
of Icarus, only human. Twelve minutes and
forty-three seconds. The forest missing, and the
appearance of a child, you, dribbling and murmuring.

We danced to an old voice that warbled through
your child belly, crooning heavily the names
of all your lovers. Your body takes twenty-eight
seconds to resurface. It is pale and crackling
with the sound of a fire. This will upset you,
but this is the Vespa, chuttling through the streets,
finding your poem. Me on the Vespa, then me
flying off on impact, disappearing into the sea.

singpowrimo 2016, day 2

ignoring the prompt

I spit, and feel I have gargled a world
out of my mouth. Is it a semicolon,
resembling a human body in prayer,
partially obscured or lost forever?
Flesh slices open in fishnet uniformity,
serving sashimi human as apology to God
who stares eyes bloodshot with faith.

Saliva and cold ceramic hug.
The bacteria, invisible, scatter like dead flies
in the sink, cooked in their own fat, they float.
If you willed your irises a few evolutions early,
if you packed your eyeballs close, perhaps
you would see the wet constellation
swimming fearfully into the black earth.

days later, in line with the prompt

Today’s challenge is a sort of found poem, you are tasked to create your own personal scripture to live your life by, a poem which is made entirely of your favourite quotes and sayings.
It is inspired by this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet”
Bonus Challenge: Include a quote from somewhere other than literary of fiction and poems. Eg: An advertisement jingle, a company slogan, your phone bill.

He manages like somebody carrying a box
that is too heavy, first with his arms
underneath. A long exposure shot. A sigh.
Are you still there? I wouldn’t blame
you if you’ve given up on me, I mean
I’m looking for God to take me away.

God! After I die please sculpt me in ice
so pure it looks like glass sweating.
God! After I dance immortality into
atmosphere, forget all of me, only –
when it rains, hold your hand out.
Catch my body before it lands.

[Michiko Dead, Jack Gilbert/ Invisible Snapshot (for Leslie Chung), Cyril Wong/ A Tale For The Time Being, Ruth Ozeki/ Poop!, Chong Tze Chien/ Poem Beginning with a Line by Milosz, Mark Irwin]

singpowrimo 2016, day 1

It’s Day 1 of the 30 days of madness you have signed up for.
The first prompt for the cruel month of April: Ready? Set? Go.

Write a poem that includes the following four words
Singapore, Poetry, Writing and Month.

Bonus Challenge:
Your poem should not be about Singapore, Poetry, Writing, or Singapore Poetry Writing Month.

poetry threaded thickly into sweatshirt, in circular
motions, accidentally surfacing at the center, blushing forcefully
a stain into calendar, stretching continental months apart, becoming sea
now. you bristle and are sticky, pressing tongue against earlobes
carved into the singapore earth. perhaps it really does hear
you. I say this because you need someone to.

Airborne

Navigating social media has been driving me to quite an edge. But I think I am settling now; my perceptions are shifting, I am assessing my needs and the right spaces and means of desire.

Despite everything, technology is setting me free now. My heart will slip back into the warm pages of my journals; this clinical space is not any of my languages of love. It must assume the shape of the glass through which it is/ I am seen, the thin slices of glass that keep me from you.