Jovan Ang is a student who writes poetry in his free time. His other pursuits include filmmaking, reading Singlit, and exploring Singapore.
I once sat
In an amber-baked Kopitiam
Garnished with browning
Metal and chatter, paying witness
To the grotesque execution
Of a bundle of cane,
Processed on a conveyor
Set for the guillotine whose
Blade could only shear
Streaked sheets of flesh
The stinging afterburn
Of diminished stars pulsating
In their glowing lacerations.
The drink is a terrarium
Of pus-like froth, enclosed
In a casing translucent enough
To view the sickly green exterior
But not the red rod buried under,
A breathing tube
Embedded within the
Cylinder city, expelling
Smog charged with
Dissipating into shards of sugar—
Frail pricks of sweetness
On the tongue,
Disintegrating before the next exchange
I don’t like sugar cane
Because sweetness wasn’t enough
To justify scarring it.
Real Men Don’t Cry:
Was that one of the ten commandments
From your little dummy’s
Guide on how to raise a child?
Was each supporting paragraph
Lined up in royal rows to spit
Salted saliva, stinging
With untethered grief
Only to find it sizzling on slivers
Of tissue with every branding
Did your ravenous eyes scramble
To devour the chunks
Of seared text, only to exile
The fine print as leftovers
To be chucked into a numbing fridge
Coolly eclipsed within shadows,
Angled to evict the light of memory
And never touched again?
Not so much of a proper doorway—
The wooden frame wasn’t fashioned
From scratch, but a layer laid
Upon a crack within the storied barrier
That separated us from razor night,
When I would wait for the doorbell
That commanded me to receive you,
The weathered hunter-gatherer, scavenger,
Man-of-the-house who presented
The spoils of the day’s hunt
To those who wailed for want.
One night you brought home a LEGO set,
Its rectangular body pouched
Firmly in both hands as if
It were the last morsel of meat
Left in a lion’s cage, and I had nothing
To give but the gift of acceptance—
Building walls with the machined
Bricks, some willingly, some
The product of motions muscled
Into memory and routine,
But every now and then I try my hardest
To squint through the etched lines,
With wearier eyes
Lim Yi Tian
Lim Yi Tian is still trying to find her poetic voice! Reading English Literature at NTU, she likes to spend her time printing literature + art 'zines with her friends, creating content for her youtube channel, or re-reading her Singlit collection. In addition to waxing poetic about literature, she also enjoys discussing fashion, myths taking place in modern settings, and the collective trauma of the Singapore education system.
Sixteen Meals that You Might Have Eaten in a Dream
in the past i used to be full.
i could have eaten out of
your hand, or you could have eaten away at me.
if only i could have witnessed what you considered complete,
the way you said your minced words tasted bittersweet.
even now all we do is reheat the same soup on repeat.
as the days go by it gets too tiring to eat.
a plate of awkwardly sliced apples, the gentle creaking of a door closing.
no apologies have been said.
no one knows what one looks like.
there is one cake
and one person to eat it.
there are three candles
and three empty chairs to serve a slice to.
neither of us is looking at each other.
we smile to pass the time, and twiddle our forks.
a secret has fallen off the table. i kick it under
the tablecloth while you are distracted with your narrative
about justice and everyone’s place in the food chain.
i could role-play as Tantalus. there should be flowers, a sky, a breeze just
light enough to ripple the sparkling lake. there will be no stray hair in the waters,
no pearl-like worm curled up in the lychees, no bloody flesh in the
pomegranates. you could be Zeus, watching me stand chin-deep in guilt
with no room to hug my knees and no one to echo back my whispers.
in a secret society somewhere, peeling an egg for someone is a sign of love.
one day Zephyr will take me away to a mansion and its endless banquet.
my lover will be a ghost, of course, someone to wait for, someone
who will lie about holding me in my sleep, someone like you.
in these winds there are clouds calling your name.
there is laughter, i suppose, or perhaps i have forgotten.
i can only name a hurricane or two, some lovers from your bookshelf,
and the orange you peeled for me left at my feet.
again and again you beg me to remember your name.
i am sorry. i have lost it to the rain, you see,
i do not know what it means to be a drizzle,
or perhaps i never ate the chocolate at all.
when Spring comes, there will be no more talk of starving.
our throats will not thirst from excuses. we should hold each other carefully,
like chefs and their knives. oh, to be close in Spring!
like an omelette spilling its secrets when you slice it apart.
you stir the pot and let your thoughts sink down into sediment.
you have heard louder things than the roaring of the waves,
a tearful shout that worms its way into your brain
and stays curled up like a starfish hung out to dry
amidst silence. you pick up your chopsticks.
no one can see your thoughts behind your cold shoulder.
the mood snaps like an icicle, dangling by a hinge
at the end of your fork. in the kitchen,
i clean up the glass shards with my bare hands,
watching ants drown in sticky syrup.
please, take a seat.
the table, the bed, the stage
have all been set. here is your knife:
this cake is perfectly human-sized for consumption.
one, only one has been bitten amongst all these apples.
up till now no one knew what vulnerability looked like.
no one looks at each other underneath all this blood.
time after time we have forgotten to chew
on our traumas. by now
we would have consumed more than we are worth.
if only you knew the way strangers’ words would taste sweet,
the way these palms will crucify meat,
the way hunger has a heartbeat.
in times like this all we can do is eat.