Yeow Kai Chai has two poetry collections, Secret Manta (2001), which was adapted from an entry shortlisted for the 1995 Singapore Literature Prize; and Pretend I’m Not Here (2006). His poems have appeared in international publications such as the US-based WW Norton anthology, Language for a New Century (2008), and France’s La Traductiere (2012), while his short stories are featured in Balik Kampung (2012) and Twenty-Four Flavours (2013). An editor and music critic for The Straits Times, he also edits creative prose for Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. His third poetry collection, One to the Dark Tower Comes, is forthcoming.
The Ghost Writer
Suck in as the baby worms out of you,
clawing, hissing. Your limbs can’t move, paralysed
by fear, dread, or a sick thrill. They turn blue,
part from body. Better soon than not; cauterise
so both of you could breathe. Gill, skin and sinew
duly replicated. Photosynthesised,
till both stare askance at each other:
Who else would love you, my monster, my lover?
Does one, ripening, supplant its own forebear?
In your eyes I see the answer I’ve uttered,
even if the signs – twin horns, nose flared –
are clear who will survive. Kicking, marimba
struck, a chord despite general disrepair…
Yes, we could double up, clap our flippers,
blow a fuse or two, trot for the gallery,
though one must choose, this or true savagery.
In the end, one lives as one image permits.
Wary of each other, crossing tapestry
stitched from spin, self-testimony or vomit.
Shacked up, each tenement remains jittery
as Silent Snuffer strikes in a whodunit.
What’s that? Who’s next? This intricate parquetry
does not squeak. Everyone is alive or not,
starting over, staying put, writing a plot.
From Z to A, a Zoetrope with Spiracles
Ablaze… bazaar razed. Woozy Jacuzzi, razor grazes
sleepy body. Pillory, my raggedy ghostly lullaby…
Exhumed: Oxfords, axe, pixels, toxic boombox, wax
works. Jowl whipped with buzzsaw. Who caws?
Nervous invertebrates. Severed, pelvis swivels, skivvies waver,
bubbling under. Busker strums bouzouki. Carousel churns
to circuitous currents. The Executor taps cutlass;
slouching, swinging towards some sentient conclusion. Softly,
amorous aureole radiates through skyscrapers. For years,
squads, equipped, quell quaking burqas. Aqueducts aquiver,
palazzos toppling. People, perplexed, trample. Arthropods push
forward. Flopped out of you, other nincompoops
aren’t cognizant. Born into richness, mandibles yawn.
Moon’s mirage shimmers. Thrum. My munificent muezzin
call, faithful slumberers… Lunging, gills flick, light
evoked. Klaverns skulk, slack-jawed. Stakes. Spokes. Thwack!
Ajar… jerky johns. Joe’s jalopy junked. Jetlagged,
recline into air; Turin behind, white spires
hazy through hidden wormhole. Latched, shaft hums.
Glacier drifting… Foghorn legato languidly running rings…
Fez flits… Full fathom five, Khalifa floats…
Feverish, Joe, you’ve seen veldts, elephants, wildebeest
disappear. Dust. Head cocked, Devil draws endgame:
Scythe uncapped, clickety clack. Crack. Scalped volcano
blows. Womby, bipedals belch. Blubbering, gibbous forebears
sprawl across land at dawn, spiracles agape
From A to Z, a Glamorous Zoetrope Names Parts of Singapore’s Latest New Town via Gemstones, Female Singers and Outer Space Phenomena
Opal Polaris Aretha Supermarket
Big Bang Amber Beyonce Bakery
Mercury Callas Malachite Secondary School
Andromeda Dolly Diamond Void Deck
Sade Interstellar Reddening Moonstone Electronic
Fiona Flourite UFO Florist
Sagittarius Gaga Sugilite Gas
Hubble Chaka Amethyst Hawker
Waning Gibbous Whitney Citrine Clinic
Jupiter Jade JoJo Jam
Strelka Kunzite Katy Kindergarten
Molecular Cloud Lorde Lapis Lazuli Library
Mariah Comet Aquamarine ATM
Nebula Nico Zircon Nursery
Oort Cloud Bjork Snowflake Obsidian Petrol Station
Neptune PJ Sapphire Police Post
Quartz Quasar Quatro Aquarium
Coral Rihanna Orion Pharmacy
Sinead Supernova Turquoise Provision Shop
Prometheus Bloodstone Taylor Swift Interchange
Umbriel Ruby Emmylou U-turn
Vesta Vega Aventurine Avenue
White Dwarf Winehouse Maw-Sit-Sit Hardware
Siouxsie Galaxy Axinite Taxi
Britney Milky Way Onyx Polyclinic
Zadora Sungrazer Azotic Topaz Plaza