Jason Eng Hun Lee

Contributor Biography

Jason Eng Hun Lee is a mixed British and Chinese-Malaysian poet. He has been published in the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, and was a runner-up for the Melita Hume Prize for his debut collection Beds in the East (Eyewear, 2019). He is a Literary Editor for Postcolonial Text and the current organizer for Poetry OutLoud HK. He lectures at Hong Kong Baptist University. 

Paper Cranes

Already you are circling the edges of your sleep,
wrestling with those restless
endless shapes from your dreams

before rising to ungirdle your neck
and flap towards the iron shutters
as though you might be set free.

Outside, the birds are clamouring for you,
a flightless boy, but since you cannot join them
or be set loose from this dour cage, 

since you cannot tread that still marble lake
or pace the corridor of migration with them,
do not fret or worry.

For I will make you paper cranes,
lines of cranes dangling in miniature
from every nook and eyrie of this ward.

A thousand cranes serenely poised around you 
and folded and pressed sensitively,
so that when you part the curtains

with a great swoosh of your wings
to contemplate your freedom,
they too will flutter towards each open window.

They too will accompany you
in all your bitter memorials,
strutting back and forth with agile movement
 
and it will not count for nothing
(to think something so beautiful could be made
from paper strips, beads and string), for as
 
you rise from your restless bed to speak
of their angled elegance and immortality 
the rigid wires will uncoil themselves 

as they hold you in shimmering beaks, 
ready to lift your cumbersome shape upwards,
above yourself, into a weightless sky.
 

Ryan Yeo

Contributor Biography

Ryan Yeo is an undergraduate at Yale-NUS College. He received a top award for the National Poetry Competition in 2017. His poems have also been read at Poetry Festival Singapore and published in several anthologies, including SG Poems 2017-2018, Eye On The World: Tomorrow's Cover, and Contour: A Lyric Cartography of Singapore

break

after all this time i still find it hard
to write poetry about you:
to cut you into pieces,

cram you into a page,
then write the last line and proceed no further;
to let it harden, to announce to myself

that this was the way it ended;
that there is no redemption arc,
no moving on or turning back,

and it will never be as beautiful
as the idea originally conceived;
it will never disappear

in bliss, forgiveness or nostalgia;
there will always be one argument
we won’t recover from;

to write this into words
is to twist the first line
and mangle it to the point where i might as well

crush the paper itself; but to write a poem
is to pen an ugly draft
and tweak the little bits,

slowly making it more beautiful,
carefully weaving the words
into a consistent theme or logic,

yet to write you into words
is to make every stanza far longer
than the next; to be honest with myself

is to stop tweaking the little bits
and arranging the story like a story,
to tell myself that honesty and poetry

are sometimes at war; to be truthful
is to rip the paper to shreds
if i dislike it hard enough,

to start on a newborn page,
yet for all the times i tried i was
unable to conjure anything

beautiful enough for the first line,
afraid to birth something
that would twist and mangle

so abruptly into something i only want
to tear to pieces; i must admit
there was one day when i squeezed something

out of my shaking fingers, and i found
letters leaking out uncontrollably,
too honest and senseless to send to the wind.
 

the shape of an 'R'

this is how a block of caesium
shows itself. it is so soft you could
cut it with a spoon, press it out of shape
with a finger; so tender, it would then
melt down, and set itself on fire.
it would only know the warmth of touch
for a brief moment. i remember once,

walking past an unfinished building
and talking about carving our names
onto wet cement. pressing our fingers
into the soft concrete and tracing out
the shape of an ‘R’. letting it
harden for as long as the block
would stand on its pillars. now i am staring

at this fuse of nature, a tab of butter
that calls itself a metal,
making a name for how quickly
it can burn itself down.