straining

Every day I am straining at life, trying to grow these tender shoots out, hesitantly foisting my vulnerability on to people in the hopes that they will be so kind as to reciprocate as a favour.

More times than not, it has been rewarding and fulfilling. There may be difficult and hardened people in this life, but I’ll always have my softness, my helplessness and eagerness.

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reading cavafy in a hdb void deck

we read cavafy together in a hdb void deck
at 1am,
luminescent night,
side by side, an open book, chess table greased with time
the field and the expanse you said you loved so
cavafy, the poet, journalist, and civil servant

On Friday night I thought – I had never set out to become a journalist, all I had ever desired to do in this life was to write and leave a trace behind
In 2011 I gave myself three months
I tried and I learnt and I didn’t want to give up
three months became four years, then ten years’ worth of time
I had never wanted to be a journalist, I said,
But I’m a tryer and a learner and I will learn and try
And in this way I can hold my head up high, no matter what they say
No matter what the world things

We can do this together, read Cavafy in a hdb void deck.

—-

The God Abandons Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

catalyst

It’s been so long since I have been here.

So many things have happened, some days my heart caves at the weight of the blackness of the world, and I wonder why I’m so lucky to have made it out here on my own.

There were days when I felt defeated by the impossibility of what is now expected of me – but when I think back to the older months, when I was drifting around aimlessly, I realise I couldn’t be more thankful to be given a direction and a goal. It has been so long since I have felt like this. Even now, I find it difficult to believe all the good things that people say about myself. But I’m slowly learning to be less hard on myself, to remember that I cannot seek validation from any person with his and her own subjective perceptions, to keep my eyes and mind trained on what truly is important in this world.

I told you that you were my catalyst and I sincerely think that every day. In London and the years after that I thought that I would hate to be tethered again, for how would I know that I would slip into a lesser version of myself, instead of becoming a fuller version of who I really am and what I really stand for? Slowly but surely, time and you are washing that brittleness, that bitterness away.

We met Ms Koh last week, god-fearing Ms Koh of the modest Ang Mo Kio household who would shout and scream at us to rage against the tyranny of the school authorities, but also Ms Koh who made me the class librarian, spoke to me when my compositions ebbed and flowed in quality, Ms Koh of the ah beng children of Yishun who later made good when they became pasar malam kings who cared about the livelihoods of stallholders under their charge. You all didn’t change much at all, she said. Yes, I thought, I really have not changed much at all.

 

amorphous

In Singapore, there is a tendency to classify, categorise, and label culture. Our cultures are “museumfied” when they are represented as a series of types and traits, rigid and static. Yes, there is value in preservation, but culture is also alive. It is a way of life that includes belief systems, traditions and aesthetics, all of which are open to adaptation.

https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/2017/10/16/in-conversation-annaliza-bakri-on-the-politics-of-malay-language-and-literature-in-singapore/

hope

“Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.”

― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Losing

“Sometimes people say the Singaporeans aren’t too expressive,” said Kuo Jian Hong, the artistic director of The Theater Practice, an influential theater founded by her father, the pioneering playwright and arts activist Kuo Pao Kun. “I feel this is partly because so many of us lost our mother tongue.”

nobody’s city

I thought of London tonight, and suddenly my heart was seized with a sharp grief.
I ached for the place like how I had pined for lovers lost – I miss the person I was when I was moulded by the city, when I was nobody’s but my own person, when I felt like life greeted me on every corner with an infinite openness.  I was in love with life then, drunk on the sense of possibility, teetering on the edge of reckless abandon.

Seattle reminded me of that. The buzz on the streets, the hills, the dinner at the Space Needle with Carla and her beautiful green hair, drinking wine and stumbling around late into the night. I sat by myself in the sun with coffee and food from the salad line at the grocery store, thinking about happiness, feeling content and full.I can’t say I dislike this city because the people make me who I am and they make me whole. But every time I take off and leave I feel like I am shedding more and more of the facade I put on to survive….it feels like a relief to be able to take that burden off.

Everything about you, Hackney. I miss you so much. I miss even being sad in your arms, even the days when I was shivering in the winter frost, sobbing on the Underground and all the way down Chatsworth Road to Landmark Heights.