Claire Betita de Guzman
Claire Betita de Guzman is a Filipina writer based in Singapore and a former editor at Cosmopolitan Philippines and Harper’s Bazaar Singapore. She is the author of four novels: Miss Makeover, Budget is the New Black, Girl Meets World, and No Boyfriend Since Birth, which was adapted into a TV series in the Philippines. She is co-editor of Get Luckier and currently working on her next novel. Find her online at www.clairebetita.com.
I will learn this language
Even if it’s too late,
The fetching, tempting
Curves of your mother tongue
Elegant, mysterious and once mine
Now wafts casual and hapless
Like aging perfume
Trapped in an airplane just about to land;
Like a tableaux admired
Yet already discarded
In the two seconds it will take you to move
To the next spectacular view;
Or a flowered pathway
Trampled to obsession
Just before it’s dismissed
And so forgettable;
Remember we had a garden like Versailles—
The words, once ours
Now reduced to something
Less than a good moment.
What we could not have imagined
As we formed our own mystical argot
A bathtub full of bikes,
Mangled tenses and murdered pronunciations,
A semblance of a coded yet crumbling dream
Arranging themselves into something
Precious and symmetrical—
But no, not like the Eiffel Tower or
Where, if I press my eye,
The gods have been
Both cruel and kind.
Death comes, I discover,
A sound starts to mean something
And that I, like a ghost, can kill myself
Over and over
With a word or an inflection;
Grieving, after all, comes in the form of
A commonplace wish.
The moment I die
Is when you show me the right words
Without ever moving your lips, so
I lull myself into something
Slipshod and affordable
Something like grief—
All this time
Finality would be easier
In the uncertainty of your language.
Margaret Devadason is a Singaporean poet, currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Nanyang Technological University. Shortlisted for the 2018 National Poetry Competition and the winner of the 2018 NTU Creative Writing Competition, Devadason contributed the winning piece of the 2019 Hawker Prize to the journal OF ZOOS. Devadason’s work has appeared in anthologies including SG Poems 2017-2018, Seven Hundred Lines, and Food Republic.
Q: Are you still thinking about a dark room?
A: I hope you’re somewhere else.
Q: Do you remember how it was to move?
A: Oh, leaping.
Q: Do you remember how things began to cool?
A: Over the hours, a skin formed. Rippled. Gathered and clung.
Q: You remember skin?
A: I even remember your skin.
Q: Do you think this is a room full of monkeys and typewriters?
A: Everything but the fruit.
Q: Do you remember the cinema?
A: The seats were scratchy.
Q: And the dark room?
A: Not, I think, this one.
Q: What about the bodies?
A: I remember how they moved.
Q: Are you sure you aren’t thinking of somewhere else?
A: There was something split down the middle, but not in half. Blood oozed and
did not gush and slowly formed a skin.
Q: And what about the peach?
A: Ripening on someone else’s tree. In a garden somewhere else.
Q: But what was the point of the peach?
A: Its flesh was golden. Its flesh was soft.
Q: Then what was the point of the flesh?
A: The bodies between us—how we stirred and our skin moved over them (my
purple black skin your purple black skin or were you golden now and again?)
and again and again and again—
Q: Do you remember what it was like talking about dark rooms in public?
A: All I have is a peach.