Leong Liew Geok is the author of two volumes of poetry, Love is Not Enough (1991) and Women without Men (2000). She edited More than Half the Sky: Creative Writings by Thirty Singaporean Women (1998; reprinted 2009) and Literary Singapore: A directory of contemporary writing in Singapore (2011) for the National Arts Council. She taught at the Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore from 1981-2002. She is (still!) working on a third collection of poems.
The world is too much with me:
Now, as then, house or home
Lays waste nights and days;
Little of time to call my own.
A sordid fray, with mind so tuned
To keeping house, or heart
So turned to filling gut,
Not please the gods or muses still.
So fraught, no Proteus or pagan,
I’m drowned by currents not my own.
Might I just push up, swim away
To reach the dry, find at all cost
What’s left or hides or lies
Buried, or—Great Grief!—already lost.
Brushing my face, breathing into my hair.
It whispers an air in my ears.
Cocooned in a blanket on the mattress
I’ve dragged to the foot of the stairs,
I look up through a large window
At clouds, and imagine the earth
Turning its back on the moon.
Still and drifting, I take it all lying down
In the dark, touched by airy silence,
Sleeping with the wind indoors.
To dye, or not to dye, that is the question;
Whether it’s nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of invading age
Or to take arms against its encroachments
And by dyeing, check it. To boldly act—
A consummation devoutly to be wished—
Though here’s the rub: black will not stay,
The roots will grow, and send me back
Again to where I went, paste to be tarred
On my head. This gives me pause
In going the whole hog. No peace till I
Stop warring with a salt-and-pepper head.
Vanity makes me a coward, driven
By the restless desires of slaying age.
To turn, or not to turn? The ego will not yield,
And thus the mind’s resolve is gnawed upon
And nature’s foes hold me in their thrall.
To cut, or not to cut; to tuck, or not to tuck:
Chin, cheeks, breasts and bum—all will descend,
For gravity is constant: skin will sag and wrinkles
Deepen into folds. To suck, or not to suck,
That belly fat decades have so embedded;
Reason and resistance are so shaken
By betrayals of the years.
To end, or not to end, that is the problem,
When to look younger is the norm,
An enterprise of great pitch and moment,
When age is spurned, the younger-looking favoured,
When face and body lie that I might prevail
And the unnatural becomes natural.