Archive for the ‘poems’ Category


Poem: First Memory

August 28, 2006

First Memory

Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was—
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.

Louise Glück

When I was young I loved the Transformers (TM). I would beg my parents to let me watch the cartoon every Saturday, and endlessly heckle them to purchase the Optimus Prime toy for me. My mom always wanted to let me what I have. My father, on the other hand, is the emblem of Asian Conservative Values (whatever those might be. Here’s looking at you, LKY!), and he knows the meaning of the word bargain. He never let me do anything unless it was good for me (read: him).

So the hoops I had to jump through to get that Optimus Prime were amazing and neverending. As soon as I completed one task, another set of instructions would issue forth from his lips. A Sisyphean, Kafkaesque nightmare. Finish your Chinese homework. Score at least 95% in your next Maths test. Go for your piano lessons. The list was endless.

Till one day, I knew I had him trumped. Being the adorable boy that I was (yeah right, I was a fat hideous kid who could spell his ass off), I was asked to perform the duties of the pageboy for the marriage of one of the members of the church. I agreed, sweetly. Yes, auntie. The sting in the tail was, of course, on the day of the wedding itself, I refused to walk down the aisle unless a new Optimus Prime boxed set was placed in my arms. I screamed, I kicked, I yelled. Nothing, nothing could placate me. And that’s how I got my Optimus Prime.


Poem: Arsehole

August 25, 2006



It is shy as a gathered eyelet
neatly worked in shrinking violet;
it is the dilating iris, tucked
away, a tightening throb when fucked.

It is a soiled and puckered hem,
the golden treasury’s privy purse.
With all the colours of a bruise,
it is the fleck of blood in albumen.

I dreamed your body was an instrument
and this was the worn mouthpiece
to which my breathing lips were bent.

Each note pleaded to love a little longer,
longer, as though it was dying of hunger.
I fed that famished mouth my ambergris.

Craig Raine

Isn’t this just so funny, yet delicate? I especially like the use of ‘ambergris’ – the fragrant sperm whale excretion used in perfumes. Check out the spoofs of the poems here. I especially like the one that follows Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts. Cracked me up completely.


Dancing in Chains

August 24, 2006

Thom GunnThis is how I survived junior college – being loveless, unloved, unhappy, abnormal, unstraight – I read the poetry of Thom Gunn. I love his poetry for so many different reasons – I can’t go into everything now but at the moment in time I’m rereading all my favorites. In fact his collected poems and his last and final collection (Boss Cupid) is sitting on my desk at work, waiting to rescue me from drudgery and boredom.

I was introduced quite late to Gunn. In the second and final year of junior college, the ‘S’-paper teacher introduced all of us to Thom Gunn (or was it just me? Juline, can you corroborate?) with the lovely poem, ‘The Hug’.

The Hug

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
  Half of the night with our old friend
    Who’d showed us in the end
  To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
    Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
    Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
    Your instep to my heel,
  My shoulder-blades against your chest.
  It was not sex, but I could feel
  The whole strength of your body set,
      Or braced, to mine,
    And locking me to you
  As if we were still twenty-two
  When our grand passion had not yet
    Become familial.
  My quick sleep had deleted all
  Of intervening time and place.
    I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

Thom Gunn

I like to think of Gunn, at times, as a metaphysical poet, a sort-of Donne – the dramatic voice, the use of wit, the double-entendre, ambiguous quality that many of his poems possess. For example, how this rather sweet poem hinges on the last line, where the deliciously and darkly ironic ‘dry’ is delivered. Lovely. More Gunn coming up.


Poem: The Skylight

August 7, 2006

The Skylight

You were the one for skylights. I opposed
Cutting into the seasoned tongue-and-groove
Of pitch pine. I liked it low and closed,
Its claustrophobic, nest-up-in-the-roof
Effect. I liked the snuff-dry feeling,
The perfect, trunk-lid fit of the old ceiling.
Under there, it was all hutch and hatch.
The blue slates kept the heat like midnight thatch.

But when the slates came off, extravagant
Sky entered and held surprise wide open.
For days I felt like an inhabitant
Of that house where the man sick of the palsy
Was lowered through the roof, had his sins forgiven,
Was healed, took up his bed and walked away.

Seamus Heaney

Ordinarily I’m not a fan of Heaney’s work, but the one above took my breath away when I first saw it about three years ago as a college student. Back then I still had lofty ideals about poetry, its importance, its uses and abuses. Now, stripped of those highflown and highfalutin ideals, the poem touches the heart. I could expound on its sonnet structure, on the intelligent octave-sestet transition, of the gentle, lulling rhythm, of how apt the Biblical allusion is.

But instead I’m keeping quiet and appreciating how sweet it is as a portrayal of quotidian household love.