Sean Wang is now serving compulsory National Service, writing poems in his free time and lunch breaks. He is a new poet currently learning, writing and reading as he goes along.
This was your garden.
The one I ran around in, tripped in, lived in.
And the one I am learning to leave.
The plants here have wilted without your care,
Parched hollow shells.
Nestling the rancor of beauty.
The grass now rules absolute.
Where it used to sit placidly in tiny lots,
It now asserts its power—
Like the blades that grew on my skin.
And it dies in excess—
Like the calluses that made scars that made scars.
I hear the song of birds.
Crisply disjointed, you made
A garden without letting birds in.
Like the milk we drank off the lips of thirsty calves.
Fizzle into a clear liquid.
What does this solution contain—
water, acid, clarity....
I slide the photograph into its plastic sleeve.
Just as the films all yellow into a dusty ochre eventually,
My conceited eye is wrapping them with the same repeating hues.
Each time I try to reminisce, I find myself confronting
A slightly different truth, wrapped in shawls and veils,
And my restless wanting heart gains no answers,
And we grow further apart.
The garden is dying flowers and rancid airs.
Shilpa Dikshit Thapliyal
Shilpa Dikshit Thapliyal is an author from Singapore. Her poetry collection is titled Between Sips of Masala Chai (Kitaab, 2019). She is a nominee of Pushcart Prize: Best of Small Presses Anthology 2021, and her poems have been featured in anthologies, journals and online magazines in Singapore, India and USA. She has read poetry in Malaysia, and at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai.
Ghazal of Covid-19
Gaia buckles, propelled to the edifice of Covid-19.
Her spin, barreled, under lockdown of Covid-19.
Sun trudges, dewey to dusken. We shade
zones, split spaces, in isolation of Covid-19.
We test tensile strength of our cabled lives,
devour virtual tenors, vlogging of Covid-19.
We tie-dye our linens, store silks in muslin,
plaster stilettos on walls, warps of Covid-19.
Creases on our forehead span a latitude,
paused, we tilt further, on the axis of Covid-19.
Autumn comes early, we lie strewn, veined.
Starlit Spring lies restless on the curve of Covid-19.
Logged on register, breaches of circuit breaker,
blink, breathe, through the mask of Covid-19.
“Dear lost heart, the North is resetting,
restore, rise, from the abyss of Covid-19.”
We scrape grout, peel veggies, learn to compost.
We billow air into dusty curios, replay childhood videos.
Canary in the lemon sun, sings her song,
For a brief moment, we are congruent.
We think of the hawker auntie,
strength of her arms in serving teh halia,
our path to the bus stand,
kindness in pruning bougainvillea.
Mimosas sprout on city pavements,
soulful in their pace.
Steel labyrinths holler on empty streets,
our perimeters lie drawn.
Across the river, a hospital heaves
sutured smiles, fluid-filled lungs, good-
byes on screens. Bare, masked mothers
hold infants to breasts of uncertainty, whispering
to their saucer face, corolla limbs-
lullabies of Ikigai.
Vagabonds of the soil run through empty wind,
chasing dreams after morning dew.
The bard of Chittagong hums into the Kallang basin.
Word by word, voice lifts past borders,
nudges Ikigai out of her womb.