Yeow Kai Chai

Yeow Kai ChaiYeow 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

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