Poem: Punggol

Silver river softly rolled, its winding passages
charted on atlases of green veins rising
under tanned skin wrapped over forearms
of men rowing on slivers of sampans

Chinese farmers with their poultry and pigs,
Malay fishermen who have delicately drawn
from provisions of the generous sea, and
between them, a sacred distance of fellowship

Past chapels from which soulful voices rise
heavenward and fall clumsily on zinc roofs
of quiet neighbours like grey singlets slipping
from laundry lines onto a bed of dried leaves;

Beside Babujan Zoo, where the Bengal tiger
wistfully watched the water, wishing,
perhaps, it could drift away, off the edge
of the story of a land, which idly bided

at the tip of a long road paved with loss,
overrun by men on bicycles, chanting
foreign anthems of liberation, lips longing for
their wives and children, which shall soon cease

to give life, but open wide its mouth to catch
the felled, where the river will no longer
carry the wishes of a people who
shall soon be called by a different name.

This poem is featured in Punggol Regional Library’s Words That Move animated digital showcase at its launch in 2023.

This poem was featured in Singapore Poetry On The Sidewalks in 2019.

It was also used in this collage work by Lidya Kamal, 3rd year Art & Design student, Glasgow School Of Art Singapore


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