Jonathan Chan is a recent graduate in English from the University of Cambridge. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore where he is presently based. He is interested in questions of faith, identity, and creative expression. He has recently been moved by the writing of Ken Liu, Lawrence Ypil, and Christian Wiman.
is where words fail, tumbling
loosely into bedroom corners,
caught again by restless paces.
intercession warms the body:
flecks of sweat shed for fever-
stained sheets. groans are lobbed
into spiritual planes, dancing
against the sunlight, generous,
mocking the distance from strained
breath. we are taught to press in
to silence, the adumbrated shape
of still life, the same tableau of
that limpid body, waiting to breathe
yet again: amen, amen, amen.
why do groans not form in sentences? the wetness, red,
curves by drooping eyelids, at the edge of tiny windows.
prayers catch in the throat, droplets keep to themselves,
faces, lined by tubes and tightened paper, are seen only
in snatches. language offers a loose embrace. the slow
work of the tele-chaplain, watching, waiting, in social
distance: the scene relayed as disembodied voice. where
does God hide when the breath is absent? when the hand
shudders and the phone howls and the masks begin to tear?
he groans. he only groans.
sits at the edge of the mind, just
as it seems that the hills will melt,
as the isolated pangs in your back
descend in each vertebra, and the
ambience hones into an unsullied
suspension. sometimes it telescopes
outward, like the emerging visage
of a white building lined by trees
on the expressway, and other times
draws inward, for the torsos wet
from monsoon water, or the skin
broken by surgical masks, or the
preacher, dutiful, in an empty room.
for every prayer is a reminder of
the death that we carry, ready to
rise, stirring into the simplest of
thank yous. sit at the table and
Loh Jun Xi Shaun
Loh Jun Xi Shaun is a student at Raffles Institution and a volunteer researcher for the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). A Young Author Award finalist and Commonwealth Essay Competition medallist, his writing has been published in the Harvard Singapore Policy Journal and The Straits Times.
We vouched to escape this forsaken place.
He said romance was saved for those with pace.
I clasped his hand, desperate for embrace.
What I last saw before my fleeting feet
was a violet dawn, combusting in sleet.
Dead men conflagrating, how bittersweet.
Fingers wilting in his clench of my fist,
as we scampered I almost tried to resist.
For him the speed was just right to subsist.
I couldn’t help it. Enduring labyrinths
of our love, placid pain mistaken for blithe.
Casual curtness congealed into our pith.
Was he not part of the ancestry of condescension?
Adam, Abel, Jacob, inane better-than-their-women.
Between the higher road and the honesty of Sodom
I wasn’t to blame for the more obvious option.
In the Bible, Lot and his family were told to flee the sinful Sodom and Gomorrah before it got destroyed by God, and not to turn to look at its destruction. However, Lot’s wife turned and became a pillar of salt as punishment.