Ju-Lyn Tan experienced a paradigm adjustment after she survived life-threatening pneumonia: She aspires to share joy and beauty through her writing. She is a regular contributor to Visual Verse: An Anthology of Art & Words, and has poems in Contour: A Lyric Cartography of Singapore and Seven Hundred Lines: a Crown of Found/Fount Sonnets.
they are waiting
found & for Margaret Louise & Catherine Joan Devadason
the nightsun lady grapples with twill ties ~ slip on the johnny ~ meet the day for those under her care. but she has fallen. park the car. she slips beyond the veil ~ trades a tooth with the ferryman for the right to breathe. she is hitched. strawberry ~ chocolate ~ fentanyl. time space go wonky. endless mystery gizmos ~ sometimes music ~ sometimes sparkles ~ faceless shadows play just out of grasp. tell them to come. line the walls ~ she drifts past
Cara Chiang is a marketing professional who slays her dark days by telling personal stories.
1. Sky in my cup
I dipped the end of my brush in blue paint before dropping it straight into the water jar, colouring it blue. I painted the sky in my cup instead of on my canvas. When I came to, I had a wide view of the floor and the forgotten typewriter under my bed. I grabbed it and put in some paper.
Today, I was supposed to start painting the commissioned piece, though like every other time, it would probably have ended up another self-expressionist abstract. The only thing I do well these days. I ended up fainting before I even started. Things don’t happen the way they do in our heads, but I’ve been told we must try to imagine the perfect ending anyway.
2. Narcissism on Jupiter
My paints have dried up. I need to buy some turpentine. These things slip in my mind. You see, it tends to remember what it wants to remember, leaving the important realities of everyday life second and third place to conundrums it will never be able to solve alone. Is there life on Jupiter? Are we so narcissistic as to think that humans are alone, the living center of the ever-expanding universe? I’m no astronomer; perhaps I’m just misguided in my focus.
3. White paint on white paint
I believe that the canvas was not always white. It was grey before, or yellow. White light reflects a calculated kaleidoscope of all colours in the spectrum. Does the canvas already contain everything we need? Is that what Malevich and Rauschenberg were saying with their famous all-white paintings? They’re trying to show us something we don’t usually see, a conclusion we have to arrive at by thinking our strange existence through.
4. Pearl rabbit
I wonder what it would feel like to pull a rabbit from a hat in a room full of people who have never seen the illusion. Maybe that’s what makes a good painting—an illusory veneer holding something real, something unpolished, something you need to dig deep for, like pearls in blackened rivers.
5. Silent ocean
Is it possible that I am losing my hearing? I went to the ocean to try and meditate, but I couldn’t hear the waves. These days I hear the ocean only in my sleep. Yesterday, I woke up and saw black dots awakening before me; maybe I should try painting those instead? My ears won’t stop ringing. Some people say extreme silence and stillness can result in tinnitus, but there is no stillness in tinnitus. There is only a constant motion, a feeling of being underwater—no surface.
6. Lightning over South China Sea
I feel like a balloon floating over the South China Sea. Just a little lightning and I could pop. I feel like a door unhinged, hearing sounds of hollow wind swooshing pass my ears, even when by myself, lying down past midnight with the lights off.
Sometimes, I want to be made of braille. Blind to myself. Touched by everybody that does not understand. Remembered by those who do.
7. Rife with speculation
I got absorbed in a painting today. There was this blue and orange painting that made me think of ear fluid emptying out of a canal, leaving a vacuous, soundless wake. Everything I see reminds me of what I fear is happening to me. Going to the doctor tomorrow morning. I can do nothing but wait and pray in earnest. I can barely paint; everything that comes out is too grey, too distanced from my previous stabs at colour and life. My new style lacks confidence; it is rife with speculation. Can we be confident in our speculation?
8. Cambodian girl can hear
Hearing planes overhead, I would always imagine the pilots staring straight, every starry sky and pink sunset alive in their heads, and the endless rainbow of people, people, people that shuttle between various roads, rivers and fallen leaves.
I saw the doctor and he confirmed my suspicions. In a few weeks' time, I am expected to lose 80% of my hearing. To where? Does a little girl in Cambodia get her hearing back as I lose mine?
9. Newborn bird is a masterpiece
Maybe God planned it for some greater good? Keep me more isolated, more creative, so I can develop the style I was created to paint, the masterpieces that have been evading me all life. It seems cruel, a girl with ears who does not hear; maybe it’s all in ‘the perfect plan’. For now… I feel like a newborn bird falling out of sync with the flock, breaths measured out in thoughts that disable me. But perhaps I’ll lift off when I catch enough wind; I’ll know where I’m going when I get there.