It is not with the lyre of someone in love that I go seducing people. The rattle of the leper is what sings in my hands. Jane Kenyon

Sunday, December 30, 2007



“No one lives his life.
Disguised since childhood,
Haphazardly assembled
From voices and fears and little pleasures,
We come of age as masks
Our true face never speaks.”
Rilke II,11

“How would anyone know if you’re
Sad or happy unless you are wearing a mask?”

No one recognizes the shadow
In my bedroom mirror until
I put on my mask.

When I perform, the audience
In the big top forget
Their tiger-striped anger, elephant
Trunk despair, lion-tamer anxiety.
The tight rope tension in necks
Disappear, All the Damocles fear
Are sword-swallowed.Their joy cannon
Balls to trapeze heights.

I am a consummate performer,
Everybody loves me. Every night
My saw-dust dread is exchanged
For star-dust dreams. Every morning
I wake, vowing never again
To be a clown.

But then the Ringmaster cracks
His whip, shouts, “The show
Must go on!”

Sunday, December 16, 2007


“You hear me again, as words
From the depths of me
Rush towards you in the mind.”
Rilke II,2

Exhale completely, sweep clean
The dusk from the house of your rib-cage.
Inhale deeply the dawn-filtered air
Filling the empty chambers of your heart.

And this is prayer, an exchange,
The pollutants from which one expires
For the power which The One inspires.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13

“I have hymns you haven’t heard.”
From The Book Of Hours”
Rilke 1,40

My Loving
Is not ordered
By the definition
I give to the act
In words
But by the thesaurus
Of meaning
I make
For every act
Of my living.

Sunday, November 04, 2007



“God, give us each our own death,
The dying that proceeds
From each of our lives.”
From The Book Of Hours,
Love Poems To God, Rilke III 6

God, give me three deaths.

The golden-calf-I-can-milk image
Of you.

The impulse to shout before
The cock crows thrice and thereafter
A rock silence.

The colt love that carries
A neighbor’s load only on convenient
Palm Sundays.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


“There is no image I could invent
That your presence would not eclipse.”
From The Book Of Hours, Rilke I, 60

No one can know where you begin
Nor where your immensity ends.

You are so vast, when I chase
After you, you have already caught
Me, in my yesterday.

When I run away from you
You are my shadow in the sun,
My silhouette in the moon and there
In all my tomorrows, the first face
I wake up to.

You are the shadow when I lift
Up my palm to shield my eyes
From the always vertical sun.

But you are also the light stealing
Into the page of my conscience
When I write of closet secrets
In bony metaphors.

Your limitlessness is both alluring
And frightening, it has two poles,
Previous and to come, cloud shelter
And saber light and between them
The globe of all I can never

Saturday, September 29, 2007



A Prayer: I desire above all things that my other things come
under the lordship of my Everything.

Yesterday, when I was praying, I caught
Myself thinking about other things.

I felt like a bird that did not
Dutifully sing the song it was taught.

I was distraught until the sudden
Revelation, sweet and sharp, “A bird
In a golden cage may not sing
The song his captor wants to hear.”

Today when I am thinking about
Other things, I catch myself praying.

And now I know, in the way
A homing bird knows. A never learned
Knowledge that I am a songbird
Fast becoming the Song.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Second Mad Pencils Club Poetry Writing Contest

Digital Art by North Design

Second MPC Poetry Writing Contest
A month back I was invited to be a judge (one of three, there were two others, one of whom was Lawrence Cheong aka dsnake1 of Urban Poetry) in a poetry competition organized by Mad Pencils Club, Singapore ( . The moderator of this competition was Alson Teo ( Age of Insanity, ). 15 poems were short listed. I was to pick what I thought was the best and that would count as the Judge’s Choice. Here is my choice, No.11, entitled “Serpent In Disgust.” The original poem is reproduced here, what follows is my critique( oops, this is one word I dislike, it is not just the sound but the letter q that makes it so unsightly, perhaps comment is the better word) and after that is the edited version. When the results were announced, the author of this poem was declared the winner! (I am glad I was correct!!!) Your comments will be appreciated!! (Aurora, Russell, Christine, Paula………I will appreciate your feedback!!)

Serpent in Disgust

the smell of
freshly steamed buns
was too alluring
a bite into it
my stomach turned
my taste buds protest
in an uproar
what lousy
meat bun is this
tasting like cardboard?

i must rinse my mouth
to rid of its foulness
the smell of fresh mint
fills my toothbrush
and mouth
the television in the room
is broadcasting
about a certain toothpaste
i stared at the tube
and vomited

flopped onto the bed
stared at the ceiling
a few fine cracks
stared back at me
then a few dust of cement fell
onto my started face
as the cracks enlarged
and started to crumble
i ran out of the room
and the hotel

the awakening dragon
turns out to be
a serpent
in disgust.

I picked poem no.11, “Serpent in Disgust.” Of the other 14, some are twice-told tales. Others give me a sense of déjà vu, the poems are places I have been to, the images are not digital photographs but dog-eared black and white prints.

Poem 11 is a new country. But the setting for the story was the old country. The trigger for the poem was a “da bao” event. A journalist, with the aid of a very graphic video clip, had reported that a bun maker had added pieces of discarded cardboard to the meat in his buns. Everybody swallowed the story, bun, meat, and cardboard and it was a culinary first in recycling until someone broke the news and revealed that it was a hoax.

The public reaction was “an uproar.” It was a cheap imitation of an Ern Malley. The indignation of being hoaxed and hoaxed exceedingly was something most people could not stomach, “my stomach turned/ my taste buds protest.” (Paragraph 1.) Indignation ran like a great wall across 8 kingdoms.

It was not just a single indignation. The initial indignation was against the bun maker who cheated. The second was directed at the journalist, it was a greater indignation, the indignation of being fooled by someone who, instead of dishing out the truth, cooked up a tale taller than the highest “long mountains,” “the television in the room/ is broadcasting/about a certain toothpaste/ I stared at the tube/ and vomited.” (Paragraph 2.)

In paragraph 3, the poet moved from judging others to self examination, “stared at the ceiling/ a few fine cracks/ stared back at me.” The poet suddenly realized that only those without cracks can cast the first stone. The hotel room is perhaps a metaphor for one’s own self and the self is not so perfect after all. It can collapse as hotels have been known to collapse. Self examination can be so frightening that the poet “ran out of the room/ and the hotel.”

The last paragraph is the revelation; we who pretend to be “awakening dragons” are but “serpents in disgust.” (Paragraph 4.) The dragon is always associated with all things auspicious; the serpent is the scaly, slimy, slithering architect of the Fall.

I picked poem 11 because of a number of reasons. The weightiness of the theme. The clever use of images. The vitality of expression. The economy of words. It is a poem you want to visit again. And you probably want to postcard it to a friend.

But I would have worked harder at the title, Serpent in Disgust are not mellifluous words. And I would have preferred a title that is more redemptive. An epigraph about the “da bao” story, if included would have made the poem easier to access. And easier for the reader to own. The third paragraph was too hastily written. In lines 5 to 8, there was a lapse in the careful crafting and control of lines that was so evident in the first two paragraphs. The end result was a cracked mirror image. I would also have worked harder at the concluding paragraph, it was too abrupt and I would have preferred the poet to show and not to tell.

And here my revision of the poem:

Awakening Dragon

“Bun Hoax reporter jailed and fined.” Zi Beijia, a reporter who fabricated a TV news report saying that a Beijing dumpling maker used cardboard as a filling, was sentenced on Sunday to one year behind bars with a fine of 1,000 yuan for the crime of “infringing commodity reputation.” From Star, 14 August 2007

the smell of
freshly steamed buns
was too alluring
a bite into it
my stomach turned
my taste buds protest
in an uproar
what meat bun is this
tasting like cardboard?

i must rinse my mouth
to rid of its foulness
the smell of fresh mint
fills my toothbrush
and mouth
the television in the room
is broadcasting
about a certain toothpaste
i stared at the tube
and vomited

flopped onto the bed
stared at the ceiling
a few fine cracks
stared back at me
then dust fell onto my white
washed face, as the cracks widened
and lengthened, the crumble started
i ran out of the room
and the hotel

i’m no awakening dragon
but a serpent, who, when tempted
by eve, fell from the card-
board tree.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Giant Vending Machine


A prayer never ends, Even after the petition is granted,
there remains the sweet mystery of why you are the
recipient of that blessing.

We teach the formula, “In this manner
pray.” A single line becomes singular
law. “First believe, then you will receive.”
A sleight of words, like the slide
of coins into a giant vending
machine. No need for importunity, faith
is the substance of coins inserted,
the evidence of selections available.
A slotted prayer makes miracles instant,
canned wealth, decaffeinated health, low sugar
absolution. There is no need to “Press
here to retrieve money,” for the kingdom
of power and glory without end
is where the Amen cannot amend
the will of a man.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Breaking Through Dark Clouds


Don’t ask for a clear inventory
Of reasons for my decision, too much guilt
Stemming from dishonorable desires,
A lack of understanding from parents, friends,
As they add up simply
To a loneliness.

From “notes to a suicide” by Cyril Wong

These pills are seeds that will
Grow a dream forest. Each seed
Will make a tree with fingers
That pluck silver linings from cumulus
Skies. The leaves will take
The humus of hurt and make of it
A photosynthesized bliss, fresh
As chlorophyll. The fruits will not
Poison your serpentine sleep with comma
Tossed rousing, its seed will lull
You into an Adam slumber
With many a rib awakenings.
See, how easy it is to slip
From sleep into Eden
In this bedroom where there is no
Cherubim with flaming sword,
Only a chariot drawn by flying

Sunday, June 24, 2007

As Large As The Universe


As Large As The Universe

“The universe is so vast that it takes a beam of
of light (which travels some 700 million miles per hour )
over 100,000 years just to cover the distance length of our galaxy
called the Milky Way. But our galaxy is only one among many
billions in the known universe.”

“Grandpa, how big is God?” The chocolate
Flavored voice skipped, jumped from behind
The geometrical colors of his Lego-world.
“Oh, He is as big as the Universe…..” the musty
Drawl shuffled from the shadows of a library
Of theological dissertations.

“And how big is that…………………………?”
“Well, if you start counting the stars
Of the universe now, you will still be counting
Them when you are as old as Grandpa.”

“Oh, Grandpa, I love you like this, God-much!”

Clouds parted, the words like a Dove
Descended, cutting through the veil
Of the temple and once again I am like
Jesus at the River Jordan, baptized
In the waters of serpent-wisdom.
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Sunday, May 27, 2007



“Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for God
To speak…………………
…………Prompt me, God,
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.”
R.S. Thomas

What is this I hear above
The drone of to-day’s weather
Forecast? Is it not the beginning
Word of the breaking news
Coming from the frequency of my heart
Beats? Is it not the still
Small voice that Elijah heard?

I know it is not
A tinnitus because the ringing
Does not stop even when my ears
Are unstopped. I’m sure it is not
The sound of God taking a rib
From the side of my thoughts
And making it a metaphor more beautiful
Than Eve. I believe it is not
The hiss of the serpent
In the tree of my mind offering
The apple of the full sentence
In place of the seed
Of the singular Word.

Perhaps it is a clever trick
Of throwing the voice. The speaker
Is light years away, yet I hear
His words like the fevered throbbing
Of the arteries of my temple.
And like the dumbstruck doll
In the lap of the ventriloquist
I catch the thrown and make
It my own. Yes, my own, still
A small voice that belies
The clarity with which it largely
Stills the questions, “Am I loudspeaker
Or am I speaking aloud?
Am I prophet or am I full
Of new wine?”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Adam Speaks His Mind

Adam Speaks His Mind
“The vast part (95%) of our minds is the “unconscious” that which we
have little awareness of. The unconscious know things we have not learnt.
Jung believes that in our unconscious is stored the collective wisdom
we inherit from our ancestors. This is the knowledge we gained from
lives we never lived, from the experiences we never experienced. This
knowledge is transmitted from one generation to the next through the genes. One of the ways we know of the existence of the unconscious is through our dreams.”

It is like the Tree
In Eden, this arabesque
Of my mind.

Herein, leaves of variegated
Thoughts jump synapses from twig
To twig at the speed
Of a photo-synthetic adultery.

Herein also the often sudden
Flowering of things I do
Not know and things I did
Not learn, things the Original
Apple promised the Digital Apple
Would deliver.

And herein also the dreams,
The cloning of Eve
From the marrow of my rib,
The fig leaf shame
Of an exile, Eden now
The room next to my
Nursery rhymes, the serpent
In the tree moults to become
The dragon in the dungeon
Of Harry Potter minds.

And I, a latter day Adam
Know that the flaming unsheathed
Sword is the belief
That good and evil
Is learned, not inherited
From the First Adam

The Art work on this post was created by North Design.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

In The Doctor's Waiting Room

In The Doctor's Waiting Room
" as if she had discovered
the train was bound somewhere;
as if the conductor
had told everyone on board
they never had to bear the weight
of being strong again."
from" Medicine"
by Tony Hoagland
It is like being in a railway
station, suddenly amnesic, unsure I have
arrived or embarking on a new journey.
On the wall a clock
that keeps station time, brusque hands
flagging away the hours, the minutes,
the seconds.
The patients are like
passengers, shoulders drooping from the weight
of excess luggage, an overnight bag
of lost dreams, a suitcase full
of travellers' vertigo, a trunk bulging
with memory aids and a map
showing roads of varicosities running
from volcanic ankles to Mt. Fuji knees.
Nearby the dispensary, where patients purchase
tickets, Anti-Histamines for a cold trip,
Anti-Hypertensives to high pressure destinations, Valium
to Nirvana, Cytotoxics to the Middle-East
of a malignant continent.
But what of my own
journey? Will it be like
the sleepers running until
the South tracks meet the North
station? Or will there be a
whiplash braking, a molten steel screeching
as wheels burn rails, a shearing
of the flesh of my dreams
from the bones of my sleep-walking
and two slippers, strewn on sleepers
announce my arrival at the station
where the
parallel lines

Sunday, January 28, 2007


collage: Mind's Garden, 07
On the seventh day..........

" This is the most remarkable of the power of poetic language: to convey to us the quality of experiences which we have not had, or perhaps can never have, to use factors within our experience so that they become pointers to something outside our experience- as two or more roads on a map show us where a town that is off the map must lie. Many of us have never had an experience like that which Wordsworth records near the end of Prelude 13; but when he speaks of the "visionary dreariness" I think we get an inkling of it."
C. S. Lewis

RESTING, Eight Images.......................................................................................................................

1 a japanese garden
a lotus man
the wind chime of a haiku
awaiting the breath
of his thought

2 shadows dance all night
sudden breeze of his prayer
snuffs out the candle

3 last call to board plane
at the back of jostling crowd
nun without luggage

4 old men playing chess
nothing at stake except for
the coin of patience

5 the armchair cradle
the ceiling fan lullaby
the milk of his word

6 just before the walk
over smouldering charcoal, he remembers
the soles' dross
and the reincarnation
of a dream

7 old lady by hearth
fingers rosary, contamplates the god
who changes rocks to bread
who also changed the beads
of perspiration into an abacus
of blessings with beads
her fingers trip over

8 the