Rendang Recipe

Mak insist she wants to masak, this year
just like last year. But 
she can no longer remember the recipe 
to her beef rendang, her signature dish 
for Aidilfitri. Food I feasted upon
growing up and tasted 
each year without fail. 

Everything is
different now, her hands a little more
tender, the taste slightly peculiar, the aroma
Inviting still
but her sprinkled seasoning of love
remains the same, her hands 
still in tuned to the bashing of
the belachan, the wok still familiar 
with her ways as she simmers down 
the coconut milk, rendering down the fats
of the sacrificed meat. Mak no longer summons
the gastronomical gods of
Chef Wan and Asmah Laili, gone
Is the blangah, replaced
with a bowl of pride and hope,
hoping her son would visit her frequently during the holidays
hoping the misty memories of his favourite
dish will keep him coming home
every Syawal. 

I return home 
every year, hoping 
to remember Mak’s rendang recipe
through the transference of tongues
before my Mak no longer 
remembers me.

Apple Tree

You have packed your boxes
14 years of memorabilia
from your cubicle desk in a record time
of 4 hours,
scooped into brown boxes and blue IKEA bags.

You return to your enclosure
with physical relief,
your body heavy
climbing the stairs in the dark,
the hallway light is out.

You turn your keys
and take a peek of what’s to come:
Heaps of laundry piles undone,
flashcards of ABCs and 123s forming a trail to the kitchen,
a cry.

You switch on the light,
it flickers.

A drawing of an apple tree pasted to the wall
the brown strokes and green curves protecting
the inner red heart within
against a grey sky of yellow flashes.

You see the violence of the top half
unable to penetrate
that rooted lone apple tree,
you drop your boxes.

It’s okay.
It will all be fine.

When You Are In Grief

When you are in grief
I will not have answers for you
No surprises are in store
No bowl of cut fruits
No comforting words.

When you come home in the middle of the night
Eyes without a shine
Tears streaming down soundlessly
The kitchen light will remain on for you
A plate of your favourite fritters
Preheat in the oven
A cup of chamomile on the counter awaits you.

When it gets too overwhelming
I will not have questions to ask
No jokes are needed
No compensation required.

The bed will be made
The candles lit
I will be near
To listen when you need.

Polling Day

How do I explain
to my unborn child
That voting is no different
Than gambling
You look at your cards
An intuition kicks in
You roll the dice
You go all in
Hoping it was the right call

How do I explain
That I never knew who I was voting for
That man in the poster
Claims to represent me
But I do not know his name
What is his story?
He hides behind another familiar face
I think I know this fella
Though I never heard him speak.

How do I explain
To that next generation
That voting for the right leader
Will safeguard
our lives our jobs our future
I never felt that safety
When past words are misconstrued
When a job is not a career
When the future is constantly weighed down by debts and discrimination

How do I explain
To this new MP
Of my plight
Will I get to meet him?
Will he be around to listen
Or do I have to fill in a form first
Join a queue
Have my problems assessed by dialect-auntie volunteers
And advice dispensed by unknown men holding clipboards.

How do I explain
My fears to you future MP
In a 10 second handshake and photo op
How do I put into words
And not have it turned into a life sentence
How do I explain
My vote?


The last of our 20s
What constitutes the last decade?
What counts as having it worth?

Will you remember it
by the number of times you’ve stumbled and fell
the bodily bruises you gained
the acne scars you’ve collected?

Do you recall
the tiny failures that will last
you a lifetime
that thing you said
that moment you missed
of burning down bridges and burrowing away burdens
of No, No, No, No, No, yes, No
of overthinking and overcompensation
of rewinding back failed scenarios and pausing at glory highlights
of what if, perhaps if, can I, should I, should I,
I should, shouldn’t I?

I hope you remember
by the quenches of satisfaction
the moments of hard work
from greasy faces to wrinkled hands
from pounds of flesh shed to kilos gained
from hospital visits and body bags
from love lost and never found
from those who stayed when they should have left.

I want you to recall
being in awe of the universe
dancing beneath its darkness
gleaming at its burning light
wasting your days on a mountain
but nothing is wasted
how the sun became your chancellor and
the stars, your guides
how you crossed a valley only to see more peaks ahead
how the mountain you laboriously ascend
proudly exclaimed,
I am not the tallest of them all.

Oh, how small you are.
How small you are.

A revelation,
Failure makes sense.


There is no place for stupidity here,
Is needed
Make our nation great again.

It takes too much effort
To teach kids the values of
Piety and prudence
Too much time is wasted
Counting your coins
Calculating and budgeting
Conversation with the canteen uncle
Is a constant struggle of corrections,
Is a waste of time.

A swipe and tap is more cost effective
Than the exchange of hands and notes
Doesn’t matter if 2+2 equals to 5
Repeat it long enough
2+2 equals 5
2+2 equals 5
2+2 equals 5.

Growing old means growing smarter
Life is temporary,
Learning is eternal
Synapses can’t collapse.
Neurons are denied the luxury
Of breaking down.
Learning new skill is a train that comes by every three minutes
Smooth sailing is called for
No delays are expected.
No time for a signal failure.

Smart is parting ways with old habits
Doing away with lontong
And our our cholesterol-rich heritage.
Yes market our prata and chicken rice
To the white folks
Exoticize it as a must-have
A tourist commodity
That will increase our revenue
But no one should be consuming
For the sake of our health
It is healthier to gamble our earnings at MBS
Than to whack that rendang
Your 65 year old mother spent the entire night making.

Moving forward means innovating
Doing away with white rice.
Nothing lasts forever
Even food needs to be en-bloc
To make way for better developments
Nasi lemak with brown rice
Just as appetizing
And healthy,
We think smart
For you.

We cannot afford to be behind
No pakcik or auntie will be left behind too
The single mother, the bangle brother
The pinoy maid, the blind kid
All, all will benefit
None will fall through the crack
At the end of all things,
We will be a smart nation.
We will be a smart nation
Too smart to see the dialect speaking uncle
Struggling to top up his card
Too smart to hear the empty stomach growls
Of the foreign Indian workers
Too smart to speak up
That perhaps an exchanging of coins from hand to hand
Or a correction from the canteen uncle
Makes one smarter.
But time cannot be wasted
No time for my future kids to be kids.
No time to grasp values of sense and sensibility
No time for face to face transactions
No time for compassion to compass our moral values.

The only passion we have is a card.

If You Die Tomorrow

If you die tomorrow,
then I am screwed
big time.

I will need to lead
in your final prayer
stand in front of those old Tok Imams
and recite strange verses
which I can never comprehend
which you have never understood.

If you die tomorrow
I will need to buy that archaic Book
start learning what to say
how to say
when to say
so much to say
for two minutes worth of say
and all that falling to deaf ears.

If you die tomorrow
I will need to start saving
because it is not cheap to die,
I need to get the cleaner, the make-up artist,
The wardrobe guy, caterer, the real estate agent, the house,
we need to buy the house,
six feet deep
with six other occupants
it’s government subsidized
so it’s cheaper at least
it’s cash term only
so the thousands in your CPF can still accumulate interest.

If you die tomorrow
your past burden will be
your farewell present to me
with loose ends
which I will have to tie, else
they will come after me
with empty threats
and bloodied fists,
their expletive-coated tongues
and phoenix-coloured hairs
demanding my invaluable head
they will stand alongside rigid men with rigid clipboards
handing out summons to our names
my name now crosses your name
Because I am you, Bak
I am my father’s son.

If you are going to die,
let it be
not tomorrow.

An Anatomy Of A Heartbreak

The electrical shock
A sudden plug to the artery
Blocking the good flow
Of love and life.

The blood coagulates.
The body resists
Denying sense and reason
All advice are useless
At this stage
Only cheesecakes and
soppy sad songs
Can help to numb the pain,
Masking it like
A dosage is required
Every eight hours.

The swelling gets bigger
The beating gets softer
The irregular flow
Of oxygenated blood
In a stream of unconsciousness.
No rhyme or reason
For your action.
There is only release.
When the tears are on the outside
The inside begins to heal.

The cyclical rhythm
Finds momentum
A support system is introduced
Boosting the immune
In search of a new hope.
The heart is only as strong
As the other organs
Coming together.
There is life again,
There is always life.

The heart may break
But it will never stop beating.

Jakarta Blues

I am a ghost
Fleeting around
This cramped five-star
State of the arts
Elegant extravagant
Hotel room in a city
Where millions outside
Fleeting around
Pagi ke sore
How sore their feets must be.

I am a ghost
Fingers scavenging
The multi channels
On my remote as I stay remote
Mouth muted
An inner hum
While noisy heads outside
Dive into trash bags
Fingers scavenging
Pagi ke sore
How sore their hands must be.

I hum a tune
The only song I know is loneliness.

Pagi ke sore: (Indonesian) From morning to evening

Regardless of race

If you believe in a democratic society
You will give up your crown
You will forego your royal lineage
Your rights to your land
In exchange for common ground
So we can live together
Regardless of race.

If you believe in justice
You will weed out the white trash
You will support our yellow cause
An Asia for Asians
We protect your land as much as ours
So we can live together
Regardless of race.

If you believe in equality
You will vote for our party
You will buy into our beliefs
All of us are equal
We are always with you, for you
So we can live together
Regardless of race.

If you believe in happiness
You will stop at two
You will keep our country clean
Remember to speak good English
Know that courtesy begins with you
So we can live together
Regardless of race.

If you believe in prosperity
You will give up alcohol
You will not congregate in groups of five anymore
Your imported presence strikes empty fear in citizens
You need to remain behind metal fences
So we can live together
Regardless of race.

If you believe in progress
You will honour those that came before you
You will uphold what we have achieved
Thank the pioneer generation with passion
In a form of a card, the very least
So we can live together
Regardless of race.