Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cyril Wong

Back in January, I read the Singaporean poet Cyril Wong's like a seed with its singular purpose. (Full disclosure: Wong is the editor of Softblow and has published my poems.) It's quite a memorable book, with several highlights that I keep coming back to. There's a lovely poem, "that day," about the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. (It's available on-line here.) As every good collection should, this one has some great lines:

"Happy the atheist that buys the poor man a meal, no thought
of your kingdom in her head."
(from "walls, loss of light")

[about an argument with a lover]
"Sorry is, once again, insufficient."
(from "before the afterlife")

"If squatted on the table and peed into our food, while we
ate as a family without once looking at each other, tasting
something sharp in our mouths."

"If my self is a shadow, at least I made a dent in the light."
(both from "if ... else")

"Before the afterlife" is the really memorable sequence in the book, about two gay men living together in Singapore, where a certain circumspection is still necessary, at least with the families of the two men. Several of the poems in the sequence are quite striking, including the one I quoted from above, but this is my favorite longer passage, from section 7:

................................ Two men dancing

naked in their own home, bodies pressed
against each other and swaying unhurriedly

to that unspectacular rhythm, in the light
of an ordinary Saturday afternoon.

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