Benedicta Foo writes about lonely people in lonely spaces. Her work has been published in journals worldwide, and won competitions in Singapore. She was once mother to a senior dog, whom she still loves very, very much.
buying a completed house in a city incomplete
is to commit to spackling paste. paste that steals
from the bones, like germany making home
for a kino in concrete. or brasilia storing a crucifix
in a building sharp and spiked.
by which i mean buying here
comes with guidebooks and a map and golden words imported
from elsewhere. compensation for what the mayor refuses
to afford from within. eloquence, she says
is expensive. surely you understand that
buying for two is the formula for an equation
you have never gotten right. math has never been
your strongest suit. all you have learnt is counting
through rosaries: ten is the decade
your mother holds for you.
by which i mean buying is more a lesson
in biology than it is a lesson in building.
your heart navigates through floors the way
it navigates through the temporal: with arteries
serving as push pins for marking all that
you can afford for each other. veins
as barriers for space debris, valves
for calcium and an atrium
for paint that borrows from
lust that borrows from
by which i mean buying
is explicit consent
for the city to withdraw
from your body
Lai Keng Yu
Lai Keng Yu is currently a literature student who is often found listening to Taylor Swift or watching cat and dachshund videos. Her poems have been featured in the anthology, Anima Methodi: The Poetics of Mirroring. Her short story is also published in Threads of Life, the 30th-anniversary publication of the Creative Arts Programme. She placed third in the National Poetry Competition in 2019.
and suddenly, sympathy became forced empathy. the child
who knew loss only from the news is now the same child
watching all that loved her burn in a wooden box. i never
wanted to believe you too would leave: you promised
to find eternal life when I ran fearfully into your arms that day. there
are too many pending promises: reunion dinners, souvenirs from
school trips, graduation. but I was pulled out of class, clumsily
fed the message that you couldn’t wait, tased with a
hollowness that the head refuses to comprehend. tradition
meant burning the proof that the dead were once living, pain that
will never untangle no matter how much you pull and wrestle. so i
bled on sidewalks where the ghosts of chalked hopscotch linger, with
words that only the heart knows. in tragedy, the world becomes warmer,
the same way hot cocoa is associated with winter. maybe, just maybe,
when glass is stacked against the cabinet door, the best thing to do is to
let it fall.
INSTRUCTIONS ON EXPERIENCING YOUR FIRST DEATH
1. it will happen. your tears will not listen to you, will not be willed back to the
frame of your eyes.
2. people will wonder where you are and you will have to respond. friends and
teachers and colleagues and extended family members who you only know
3. condolences will not mean much. but you will smile and bow and mouth
appreciation in a dialect that has died on your tongue.
4. but you will crave for the ringing of the phone. crave for the niceties. crave for
the constant murmuring of prayers. you will not crave for alone time with your
5. your mother will hug you. and will try to crack a joke. but you will hear the
shudder in her usually steady voice, like a wave tearing through the shore.
6. you won’t know how to sleep. dreams on loop for you to relive your best
memories only for it to be slapped out of you by consciousness.
7. people staying nearby will reconsider their routes and stick up fragments of red
paper by their doors.
8. you will not remember the feeling of dry pillows. you will stop reading to prevent
the pain from seeping through the pride and joy of someone else.
9. you will develop an obsession with the sky. it is after all, the barrier between you
10. but someone will cup their hands over yours, shift your fingers that have been
strangling the flames of the candle. place their hands on your cheek, guiding
you away from the sky.
11. the feeling of getting robbed will not go away.
12. your memories will however shine brighter.