respect

he pins me to the bedroom wall
and turns my face towards the camera
if you leave me
the world will know
your face
respect yourself, he says

I win an award
IT'S TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS
my professor beams
and hands me
praise
if you keep writing
the world will know
your face
respect yourself, he says

He pulls me in
for a kiss on the front steps
of a place I call home,
where I stay.
It's unexpected,
it's his fault, not mine, 
he claims,
respect yourself,
he says

I stand before a gate
at departure,
my family and friends
they wave
It's unexpected,
the pride of our lives
taking flight,
respect yourself,
they say

there's a long,
low keening,
of the wind tonight.
I'm wrapped in its cold embrace.
I've not worn a tank top
out in ages,
respect yourself, 
they say. 

there's a river wide,
I wait for a spate,
a dip,
I'm carried away. 
Dead bodies float,
if you fight you sink,
so stop,
respect yourself,
I say. 

heavy

one of my favourite lines in a song goes like this
"a tully device to make sinking stones fly" 

I think the reason I love it so much is because I love the idea of sinking stones doing the opposite of what they're called to do. Levitating instead of dropping. 
I think it's because I wish I had a tully device to do the same. 
Instead of breaking hearts, breaking hearts mending.
Instead of crying lovers, crying lovers laughing.
Instead of dying souls, dying souls living. 

I think the reason I love it so much is because, 
I am so weighed down, 
every goodbye a sinking stone around my neck,
I am ready to fly. 

colors

the instant noodles were yellow.
she blew her nose on scratchy tissue
the sticky mucus was yellow.
the last egg yolk that spilled like secrets
from its opaque membrane was yellow.
She got on her knees her skin was raw from rubbing, 
that too was yellow.
the lights that dimmed the room
rather than lighting it up was dirty, 
dirty yellow. 
 

So can you blame her for trading in yellow,
spilling red, 
when he offered her green
instead? 



 

today while walking home, a man in a black tweed cap said hello, how's your day going to me. good i said, and then to be polite, how about yours. he had a cup of iced coffee in his hand and he motioned towards the sky as he replied i'm going to work now. where at i smiled it was alright to talk because we were walking down the street and the street was busy with other students walking home. just around he replied. he had deep wrinkles in his face. what year of school are you in he asked. second i said. you're a beautiful lady. you're a very beautiful lady. he said. take care of yourself now, take good care of yourself. his smile was kind. his eyes were tired. i thanked him God bless i said as i turned into the shortcut i took everyday after class. he had nothing to lose and even less to gain. so he must have been telling the truth. i allow myself to smile. 

 

There's the skyscraper New York, the loudhailer New York.
Lady Liberty tall and proud and unapologetic. 
There's morning Brooklyn, coffee-with-your-flaky-croissant Brooklyn.
Artists walking their dogs that piss confidently on tired but cheerful-red fire hydrants.

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Then there's subway New York, the underground New York. 
Cowering in corners, caving-in cardboard homes.
There's neon-lit Brooklyn, warning signs Brooklyn.
Young uns backing into the walls, whistling loudly but carefully at passers-by. 

borough

when we finally felt as if we had come to our senses, 
we decided to walk through New York one last time. 
the rain was warm, 
and that surprised me. 
your arms were not, 
but I didn’t miss a beat. 

the first borough, 
we pretended that we were not pretending at all. 
I stopped for a photo of a child, 
so that I could pretend in our pretend world
that she was mine, and I was hers. 
the second borough, 
you grew tired but I was used to walking the talk, 
so I carried the act on my back
while you carried my collection of books on yours.
(we had agreed that no trace of each other should be left in our homes and so
I took with me Dickens, Poe, and Plath) 
the third borough, 
you stopped for a smoke and I didn’t look away
as you inhaled everything that was wrong between us
and exhaled in relief. 
I had a lifetime ahead of me to not see you
do the everyday things you did, 
so I watched you with clear eyes and clouded conscience. 
the fourth borough, 
our steps
faltered

and

and I kissed you
for the last time
on the end of the fifth borough
and what I didn’t know was that
you too
had wished with all the broken bits of your heart
that there was a sixth borough.

 

now

If you saw me as I was
today, 
my unabashed laughter in a roomful of those
we never dared claim to be near the standards of, 
be it intellectually or just by sheer virtue of
skin color.

If you saw me as I was
yesterday, 
brave.
My voice the only one in a hall of 300. 
Calling out the right answer. 
Better. 

If you saw me as I am. 
Would you still say you knew me? 
Would you still say you know me?
Would you still say you loved me?
Would you still say you love me?


 

kundera

I understand now, the giddying pull of solitude. Not that I didn't before. But I cannot recall having experienced this intoxicating joy that I did this morning when I slowly opened my eyes, and ears, and then unfold my consciousness to a fully empty house. With the exception of the cat of course. The cat is always the exception. Spent the day languidly doing bits and pieces of housework, interspersed with rusty scales on the cello, then a long-due yoga session which took place in a warm studio with cold glass walls that showed us the snow falling in flurries outside. 

Being alone, physically, makes you hyper-aware of your body, and actions, quite like how it is on the yoga mat. There's no one but yourself to be accountable to, and perhaps the most selfish of us are the ones who shy away from relationships and interaction. If so, I don't blame you at all, for not wanting a relationship, but on my part, I took it a step further and eradicated the interaction as well. All or nothing, right? That's how I've always lived my life, so no wonder my alone time has graduated into deliberate isolation. How do I reconcile these two facets of myself? The one that would cross a street to ask an interesting-looking stranger his name, simply because I had to (you see, he looked like a story). And then this one - that holes herself up in her apartment for days on end, with Milan Kundera keeping me company from between the pages of a book, and the cat, of course. 

This week, I carried succulents around in the side pocket of my backpack, eavesdropped on a conversation two lovers had, gave my first ever public reading of a soon-to-be-published work, and had my heart broken twice in three days. Half-sipped stone cold coffee arrayed in a row of tired mugs, half-burnt-out scented candles sending smoke signals into the air, half-opened boxes bearing preloved items and previous stories, half-written manuscripts, half-digested psychology articles, and me - half-way to being. 

Nevertheless, I'm excited for the upcoming New York trip I've planned with a friend over spring break! Part of me can't help but feel like I'm buying into the whole wanderlust ideal surrounding this particular city, but that's just the cynic in me talking. Not that it ever shuts up. Still, it's going to be a good break from this dreary campus. Though to be fair, the weather has very suddenly taken a turn for the better and I can see why people call this place beautiful. 

I'm also excited for this new space! It's something I've had my mind on for the longest time, and it took me three different rejections in various aspects of my life to propel me into finally bringing this idea into fruition. So thank God, indeed, for 'no's', for 'I'm sorry's, and for 'you'll understand why someday's'. Because I think, I think, I'm beginning to understand. 

 

lemonpee/

a woman wails and people clap 
amongst other things
Yoko Ono 
avant garde 
what?


holding a kitten tight 
stringing around your neck 
to settle in between your breasts because
cats purrs aid healing 


drawing the evening out 
into midnight on my canvas 
because sleep is for the weak 
minded who are unable to conjure up 
the sort of wars that rage
in my subconscious state

every creak is a murderer 
every squeak a Russian Roulette 
in which the only player is 


wish that the night would carry you out 
on four shoulders 
and not return in the morning



mad girls

Mad girls
drunk on evening wine
eyelids coated in hues of clementine

Mad girls
laugh, not from lack of inhibition
instead from potent need of validation

Mad girls
paint the streets red
with real-life metaphors
blood from their blisters
soles of their feet sore

Mad girls
lie awake in the dark
their lips whisper 'love'
their hips - 'let's just fuck'

Mad girls
with flaming hearts ablaze with guilt
setting alight all the bridges they've built

Mad girls
pay debts from popping tops off beer
for weak men who sell guns
to weaker men living in fear

Mad girls
living under labels misconstrued
mad girls
are actually just sad girls too

wish

Four months after they were married, she started to cover all the mirrors in the house. 
Those too large to cover, she destroyed. 
One day he came home to find her pulling shards of glass from her palms. 
The broken mirror lay on the floor of their bedroom and he saw their shattered union reflected in a thousand puzzle pieces. 
A thousand husbands comforting a thousand wives.
She didn't want to look at herself. 
Compared to the women outside, she was nothing.
She was hard where they were soft, small where they were large, angular where they were rounded, lacking where they were full. 

She wouldn't pose for pictures. 
He let her do as she wished. 
She broke the mirrors. 
He let her do as she wished. 
She replaced all the marble furniture with cheap wooden replacements. 
He let her do as she wished. 
She asked him to close his eyes whenever they made love. 
He said 
no. 

He said no, you can avoid the pictures. you can break the mirrors you can remove the marble monuments we bought together and replace them with the wooden furnishings of your insecurity but when I love you you must let me see you for who you are don't let the pictures, don't let the mirrors, don't let any reflection tell you if you are beautiful or not they aren't alive they cannot feel your hands they cannot feel - 
Let me tell you. 
Every day. 
Let me tell you. 
Let me. 

And finally, finally 
she let him do as he wished. 



I had a first kiss in the middle of a subway station once. One of the biggest in all of Tokyo and subsequently one of the most famous.
There's no underground subway metro quite like the Tokyo underground subway metro.
You are but a drop of water in an ocean once you've descended the steps.
The roar of the trains rushing across the tracks sound like the crashing of waves upon the rocks.
Ticket machines chirp, beep, click.
Muscle doesn't float so you must let yourself be carried along by the surge of the tide of commuters. Don't fight the flow.



Before the kiss, I avoided the subway. I held my breath whenever the train tracks dipped into a tunnel and we were bathed in darkness. Only during those brief moments I would catch glimpses of my reflection in the window.
I saw a young, terrified girl.
Three years later, I still see the same young, terrified girl.

The kiss took place in front of the ticket machines. Next to a pillar with station names plastered down its side. It was near midnight but still the trains roared and the waves crashed.
I finally understood the pull of claustrophobia.
The deliciousness of vertigo. When up becomes down and down becomes up. A world existed beneath the world above.


He is no longer here, in my life, or in that station. But once in a while, to indulge myself, I would take the train to the subway station where we first kissed. I would walk to the same spot where we once existed together in a common time and space and stand there awhile.

I had a first kiss in the middle of a subway station once. One of the biggest in all of Tokyo and subsequently one of the most famous. What they don't tell you, is that it is also one of the most beautiful.

Solace in Colace

jealousy is a laxative
it makes your stomach muscles clench
forces out the fullness of your body
so that all you become
is bitter bone
and skeptical skin

once i read a story about a girl who couldn't stop taking laxatives
"Where's my Ex-Lax" she would hiss
"I want my Colace"
the nurses ignored her
the other mad girls laughed at her

I flipped through the pages wildly.
maybe i would find her cure to my madness
but i was disappointed
because she was sexy too
according to the writer.

sexy
with her glowing limbs and lazy stride

i went on taking my laxatives
i purged myself of self-worth
after a particularly strong dose
i would feel light and empty
nothing coating my insides except an intense hatred

first

first a step 
back 
and then two steps forward
next three steps
back 
and the dance is over 

first a mile 
apart
then meeting halfway 
next a mile
too much 
then the difference of half a day 

first a little 
space 
then a kissing of souls 
next a forgotten 
face
and the last chapter told 

first a compulsive di sOrD e r 
and constant willing assurance 
next a drowning 
lover
and a lesson learnt 

first a triumphant turn-
ing 
then the fall after pride 
next an iron will crumbling
thank you for the ride 



art

ice in the veins
dull thud of the heart
i seize the moment
i say my part

my ashen face is a color
i am a work of art

being sweet is bitter
doing soft is hard
she's someone i'm not
i am a work of art

i am the sum
- assured by Sartre
i'm not what happens to me
i am a work of art

layered emotions
stroke of a close brush
with death
with love
both draw a-part
in the canvas I am
a work of art

maybe if i say it
often enough
the lies will become
truth that imparts
i listen to the plea of my heart
let me be
let me be
a work of art