I rose before you did
in that hazy half-light
between dawn and today.
In an anonymous window
right across the street,
intent on cracking an egg
trying to make breakfast and
already, an ambulance
turning cold by the sidewalk.
Paramedics hang around,
squatting by the pavement.
A few coffee addicts
wait for their shift to end.
A light breeze enters to rearrange your hair.
I closed the windows
as softly as I could,
for you to sleep on it a little more
at least till your eyes dried
Quietly, I cleared the pieces
of a broken something,
and after that, the rest of everything
then returned to the sofa,
pretended to be asleep
so we could all lie a little longer.
They’ve repainted the school.
I warned the rest.
In the closest beige they could find from all our memories complied
Theirs, ours, mine.
Painted three times over and made clean the walls
we scribbled vulgarities, loves and ambitions over,
for another year’s aspirations.
Of course this beige will never fit.
It will always be too new for us.
Nevertheless everyone appreciates the gesture
and wants to see how the new beige turned out.
I arrived with the others, the athlete, the class clown, the Romeo,
now the businessman, the lawyer, the emotionally-bankrupted,
all unrecognisable, with the same shirt and tie agendas.
Two lugging boys they never thought of having,
the others pulling lives they never dreamt of wanting.
We walked around open-mouthed and foolish,
like the first day we arrived
from the lives our parents wanted us to play
and then, into this.
It felt odd to watch other people’s children tumbling
corridors like how we once did.
Tracing our fingers over cracks
three batches of promised paint couldn’t cover
and then to turn and expect the great wooden staircase
we spent four years climbing,
only to meet a section of brick we’ve never touched.
It felt wrong, to be utterly lost in somewhere
I spent the best four years of my life
before growing up and meeting the world
with its long brick walls and everyone else behind it.
I was standing near the old Scouts’ Den;
where the big black tree everyone believed to be immortal,
would have been.
I found a match near where I lit my first cigarette.
Half-buried and right-angled by the daily shuffling of sand,
I almost believed it could be the same one I started back then.
I remembered shivering, unable to steady the flames,
unable to stop grinning, fearful someone would come to catch us.
At fifteen, half the joy of smoking
was the prospect of being caught.
Still, I kept it as a memento,
and when no one was looking;
rubbed a little mud on a repainted wall that felt familiar,
to recollect a little of the best four years of my life,
before returning to the rest of it
with the rest of all of us.
Measure of Desperate
Reaching into the fridge for milk, then the realisation that I was all out. Still, I tipped that empty carton over an empty glass for those last drops. Filled it straight from the tap, all that just to get a small watered taste of what I cannot have. Right there and then.
Truthfully, I’ve forgotten my reasons for falling in love with you.
One year ago, standing on the bridge between Fullerton and the Esplanade, almost begging you: “What do I have to say to keep you?” Knowing that if I actually cried you might just relent.
Watching you on video over and over again. At your sister’s wedding, you in a satin dress for probably the first time in your life. Learning to twirl. Complaining to the Best Man how I was always either eating or doing something silly. Then much later, you telling this back to me and how a random photograph of me glimpsed from that wedding, almost made you cry.
I deleted that video. For my sake, not yours.
I see that watch everywhere. All the shops bore a copy. The one I bought for your birthday and gave you at Raffles, while helping you put on a Handy-Plus on your feet. The one you dropped. The one you lost. The one your sister wore more often than you did. The one you tried to return. Mine.
The last time I sang anything at church, you were next to me. Giggling at the rough brush of my voice.
I would never hit you.
There is nothing to eat in this kitchen. The bread is gone and I cannot trust the cheese. The ham has been reserved. Only three eggs left on the shelf and I broke them all. Then tried to light the gas with the tip of my cigarette.
At 2 am, a call from you
broke the whole house.
Barely ringing, but already,
your free hand is mock-dialling,
someone else’s number.
Just in case.
My reply came straight
from the table.
Rising bat blind,
I bashed my way through
broken bottles and
the obstacle of my entire living room,
to wrap my fingers
around cold plastic.
The first thing you said was:
I liked how a single word from you
could make my morning coffee
You asked if I was awake.
I tried to breathe it back into you.
Then a long silence
as we waited for each other
to utter the first wrong thing.
I keep forgetting protocol –
how much you prefer tea,
how much a turnoff
my coffee breath is
The way you would recoil
from my slightest touch,
and how even across
the distance of these lines,
you are frowning
at the sound of my voice.
At 3, you were the first to end this.
At 3.05, I was still holding on,
till the disconnected tone
got into my head
and there it became
a different kind of pulse.
For the Woman Who Draws Butterfly Wings
You asleep at your table, surrounded by jars,
having wrecked yourself
over the carcasses of these wings, building
transparent sections one at a time,
with a twig of a pen
its end cut so sharp
your finger supplies the ink.
Despite your voodoo,
these will never carry into flight.
Body-less, they cannot stand
against the force of your kiss
spending their strength here, protesting
in weak flaps, grounded in plain paper.
within their skeletal torment
must give you pleasure.