Childhood, family, love, memory

To be three

They say you don’t remember
Anything before the age of four.
Don’t remember that thumb
jammed in the door,
Don’t remember that tooth
Chipped on the floor,
Don’t remember tantrums
In the toy store,

Don’t remember your mom’s
Sleepless nights,
Don’t remember your dad’s
Tired sighs,
Don’t remember your brother’s
Protective lies.

You won’t remember the castles
Built of pillows for stone,
The snowmen made of clothes
Carelessly thrown,
You won’t remember being tucked up
Late at night,
You won’t remember the first time
You said goodnight.

But we do.

With love, your family.
Happy Birthday, dear Sophie.

family, love, memory

land-line

In the dorm stairwell
hung a public phone
where each week
I’d call home.

Each call a litany
of hellos and reports
of health and weather,
food and whether
I had enough money

as the phone burned
pound coins per minute
till I found international
calling cards at the corner shop

and talk became cheaper,
silences awkward, intervals longer
till the next stairwell call
till you couldn’t pick up at all.

Hand resting on the lever
I cradled the receiver
and dialed again.
Again. Again.

Background

Before widespread, high-speed internet and mobile phones, being overseas for work or study meant the only way to speak with someone back home was via an expensive long distance call.

I suppose this is an experience that is pretty much ancient history, thanks to tech.

family, love, Poetry

intermission

Tomorrow, you were supposed to be
dressed in a smart, new uniform,
spiffy shoes, ready for the first
day in school. But you aren’t
ready. Certified.

Today, I tried to hug you,
cradle you. Awkwardly you let me
hold you, made yourself smaller
to fit my fears.

Tonight, you mutter in your sleep
words unknown. I look across
the dark and wonder if you know,
will ever know, how much we

worry.

“How long is the intermission?”

Kiefer on the train

Background

I wrote this poem on the 2nd of January 2018. TheĀ 3rd of January was the first day of school for all children turning seven that year. For most parents in Singapore, it’s a special day, often marked by Facebook updates of their not-so-little ones in their spiffy, slightly oversized, school uniforms trundling off to school and the wide blue yonder.

My son was supposed to be one of them, but the doctors had advised he spend an additional year in pre-school and early intervention. My son is on the autism spectrum.

I wrote this because I worry, as I think all parents of special needs children worry, about how my son will take care of himself and make his way in a world that sometimes seems ever more cruel, intolerant and unjust.

And I have no answers.

Just hope.

A hope that I see in how he takes of his little sister.
Protects her at the playground.
Tugs at our arms when she decides to wander off on her adventures.
Cries when he sees her in pain or distress.
Comforts her even though he doesn’t always have the words.

kiefer and sophie

And that is enough.

Childhood, family, memory

Tracing an outline

It collects in pockets,
on the edge of photo frames,
the sediment of sentimentality.

It gathers in the stillness of breath
waiting for your finger,
to trace an outline.

Cleaning is an exercise in utility,
every obliteration a momentary rejuvenation
time-travelling back to before we were old,
to before there was just

dust.

 

Background:

My two-year-old daughter was taking a nap at my parents’ place, and as I watched her blissfully sleeping, I noticed a dusty table that had been there forever.

My parents’ place is a reservoir of memories. Going home is always comfortable, but at the same time tinged with a sense of things slowly slipping away, even as they remain solid, permanent in your hand.

Childhood, family, love, Poetry

In descending order

A telomere

Life

is a region of repetitive nucleotide sequences

is a repetitive sequence

at each end of a chromosome,

at each end,

which protects the end of the chromosome

which protects some

from deterioration or from fusion

from deterioration

with neighbouring chromosomes.

when it’s time to go,

“I before you, except after she.”

I’ll miss you.

 

Background:

Having a child is one of the greatest gifts a person could ever receive. It is a profound and amazing way of experiencing love, trust and sleep deprivation.

I wrote this poem thinking of the two little monsters at home; and how weak, fallible and mortal they make me feel.

Sophie and Kiefer hug.jpg