2065

Oma
Why live in the past? Why do you not forget?

Because I cannot forget nekhed
When the past lives in me
the pain etched on me still
the black ink fresh
the number tattooed on my left arm
No longer ein mensch
But a number-
2065
Convicted to a slow death.

Oma
What did they do? Why do you not forget?

Because they took everything away nekhed
Your clothes, your hair, your name.
At first they burn our books
Then they burn our men
A library of shoes
Piles and piles
Of shoes.

Oma
Why did you not avenge? Why do you forgive?

Because it is not their fault nekhed
It is not them who begin
So I forgive them for the curse
Which they unjustly placed
In the names of our father Abram
I forgive them for crucifying us a second time
For they knew not what they were doing.

Oma
What should I do? How do I not forget?

But you will not forget nekhed
For the past lives within you
Do not ever forget nekhed
Do not kill us again through your forgetfulness
One day you will tell your child
And let your child tell another
And their child another generation.

Destiny

I am destined for the Hellfire.
I am destined to die,
to be punished for my sins.
There is no salvation for me
no saviour that will
save me.
The only good that I will leave behind
is my absence
that will be filled
and shared
by the existence of another stranger
whom I do not know who
whom I am miraculously connected to
by six degrees of separation
by seven different faces of the same soul.
When my time is near,
I will know.
I will feel it in my bones
my guts will hint at me
my nerves will show.
Apparently, you can know when
Death is coming.
So one is able to prepare how
one wants to die.
Hundred and sixty centimetres tall,
Sixty kilos of dead weight.
I have measured myself
so I can fit into
that cramped hole
that I will share with six, maybe seven,
other strangers whom I do not know
but surely heading the same way that I am.
I have measured myself
accurately
so I can be wrapped
nicely
A total of three lengths of white cloth
will be used
and my body will be sprayed with the most fragrant scent
from seven different flowers
and be presented as a gift
to my Creator.
I hope He will be proud of me.

I am preparing myself now
Because I know,
I am destined to die.

To be a better man

To be a better man
you ought to believe in a God
that you are nothing but a minion
your strings orchestrated by
invisible fingers from the above.
You ought to cover up that void in your heart
with a Surah, a Doa,
make it seem whole and pure
once more.
You ought to pray
in the direction of the Kaaba,
a black box,
with a void in its heart too.
You ought not to be disrespectful
but worship it.
It is not any ordinary structure,
it is a conglomeration of our faith and belief.

To be a better man
you ought to be filial to your parents
give away 50 or a 100 from your paycheck
to your beloved parents.
Any amount of gratification, but not too little
you ought to pay off your debt as their child.
You ought not to raise your voice
and question back
for you do not know right or wrong
for you are only young
forever a child.

To be a better man
you ought to rid yourself of your sins.
You ought not to smoke and not to drink.
You ought not to sleep and not to flirt.
You ought not to do what is not to be done.
You ought not to have a brief romance,
or a slight sensual touch.
You ought to stay clean and pure
even if you’re breaking deep down inside.
You ought to keep your demons at bay
and disguise yourself as an
angel wearing a white songkok and gown
walking down the streets
and don’t forget,
that you ought to smile too.

To be a better man
you ought to have a role model
someone to look up to
because you are always at the bottom
and you need constant motivation.
You ought to look up to our Prophet
for He is the epitome of a great Man.
You ought to look up to our leaders
for they have sacrificed a lot for you.
You ought to look up to your parents
for without them you will not be here.
You ought to be grateful.
You ought to be faithful.

To be a better man
you need to listen and not speak,
You need to think and not dream,
You need to give and not get.
You need to do all that and more.
You ought to
if you want to be a better man.

Let Her Go

“You only know you love her when you let her go. / And you let her go.”

    – Passenger ‘Let Her Go’

This morning, I woke up and I remembered. I remembered your voice,  that sweet Australian accent of yours. I remembered your height, how you were half a head taller than me. I remembered your countenance. Most importantly, I remembered that countenance. I remembered you.

And I know now that it’s all too late.

Without a name or a number, I dropped all plans I had that night instinctively and went to the airport to search for you. I should have asked what time you were flying off, which flight, which number, your number for that matter. I should have asked for that photo of us.

I couldn’t find you. I gave up. I looked at almost every white-skinned girl entering the departure hall and I couldn’t find that precious countenance that I was sacredly trying so hard not to forget. Chance, miracle, divine intervention, whatever you called it, wasn’t with me that night. It was definitely there when we first met though.

We waved goodbye that day. Our secret waves. You kept looking back as if you were signalling to me to come over to you, to ask you to stop, to stay awhile more, anything, something. To just keep that moment of ours alive. But I didn’t. I put an end to that moment.

And I let you go.

You still do not care

Pigeons falling down
Suffocated to death, yet
You still do not care.

The sun can’t be seen
Bleak future lies ahead, yet
You still do not care.

A forest destroyed
Hectares of lives burnt down, yet
You still do not care.

He covers his mouth
Silent obedience, yet
You still do not care.

She lets out a sigh
Her heart broken by men, yet
You still do not care.

They toiled day and night
Trading health for your wealth, yet
You still do not care.

They cry tonight
Unfulfilled promises, yet
You still do not care.

One by one they fall
Breathing each other’s air, yet
You still do not care.

In Separation

Picture-Perfect Family
A Beautiful Portrait
Mother, Father, Daughter
Yet, no smiles.

The child.
Makes or breaks,
Tragic that it has come to this.

The woman.
Shows strength in subservience,
Gives gift in giving.

The man.
Masculine only in the mind,
For his heart feels for the feminine.

The real sufferers are the innocence
The innocence bears much of the guilt
The guilty questions the guilty both guilty of doing good.
Guilty of doing wrong.
Guilty of their rights.

Who leans, who sows
What is it that matters most?

The mistakes of our generation
The future of the next
The mess you left
Is theirs to clear.

So who is to blame?

Anticipation

Think of it like a pocket watch.

that is forever waiting in the hands
the hands that will not stop moving
but will continue to move regardless the time
and with every numeral it passes
a beat is made.

but it doesn’t stop
the hands keep moving
the beat stays constant
with a slender metallic chain
it wraps around the hands
just waiting for that opportune time

to stop.

Yucks!

We fear more than we love. We shrieked and we run away from what disgust us. There is nothing wrong with that. Disgust is a natural and reflex action. It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us sane.

On the train ride home yesterday, I was oblivious to my surrounding. Given that it was the last train and the clock was going to strike twelve soon, I was drop dead tired. I was never a night person. Even when I was a kid, I would pester my parents at eight in the evening just to bring me home so that I could have a good night rest whenever we were out. Things have not changed much. I still wanted to go home, fast.

In order to pass time, I randomly watched YouTube videos so that my eyes would not fail me and make me miss my stop at Clementi.

As surreal as it was, I suddenly felt everyone in the cabin retreating away from me. I was surprised. Clearly, I hadn’t shit in my pants nor was my body odour that bad that everyone had to create a demilitarized zone around me. I looked around me. I looked below me. A pool of yellow half-digested noodles swimming in acidic fluids. Someone had vomited.

I was affected. Whoever this person was, he had vomited at me, at my feet. I was disgusted. My body was tingling and feeling all dirty, as if I had been brutally gang raped and my sense of self, exposed and naked to the public.

I looked towards this drunk Indian national. I stared at him. He was trembling, hard. He was sweating and he had vomit residues all over his face and body. By now, everyone in the cabin was practically in a safe distance, away from this threat. I was the only foolish victim still within his perimeter.

Call it my ‘little man’ or that sixth sense in me, but I felt wrong. No, I cannot be like ‘them’ and retreat. No, I cannot. The more I looked at him, the more my disgust turned to empathy. He wasn’t drunk. He was afraid, embarrassed. Who wouldn’t be? He had made a fool of himself, in a foreign land. Unanswered questions of “What the hell happened” and “What am I going to do” were written all over his stressed black face. No, he wasn’t drunk. He was sick. I looked closer at the vomit. Fresh instant Maggi noodles, not fully digested still. Probably his dinner, or the only meal he had ate for the day. This guy was in a mess.

My hands reached into my bag and I took out a bottle of water and offered to him. He was hesitant. I gestured towards him to drink up. He slowly brought his hands out towards mine, took the bottle and drank. No words, no Thank You’s, no smiles. There wasn’t a need for one anyway. I gave him a thumbs up, a gesture to see if he was alright. He nodded slightly. That was all I needed.

I alighted at the next station, Clementi. I do not know what happens next. Probably ‘they’ will snap photos of this foreigner and rant about it behind their monitors and keyboards. Perhaps a kind soul would check on him and offer medical help. Probably. Perhaps. I don’t know.

All I know was that when I left the station, I felt a sense of regret coming over me. If only I had brought along a pack of tissue or a face towel so that I could have offered to him to clean himself up. He really needed one.

Pockets

I keep dreams in my pockets.

When I was ten, I wanted to be a Blue Ranger.
I wasn’t handsome enough to be a Red,
nor black enough to be the Black.
So I had to settle for Blue.

When I was twelve,
I wanted to be a soldier.
The kind that would go into battle at twilight,
motivating men to give their all
annihilating stinky bugs and aliens,
telling them “Welcome to Earth”
before I shoot their brains out.

At eighteen, I became more humbled.
I simply wanted to be, Iron Man.
Rumbling out with the baddies,
tumbling in bed with ladies.
I would wake up at twelve every day
and make out with random strangers every night.

Which reminds me, when I was nine,
I wanted to be…
I don’t remember.

I keep dreams in my pockets.

At fourteen, I ran away from home,
away from the monster in the baju butterfly,
she who calls herself, my Mak.
I wanted to be an artist and run to Hollywood.
A traveller, setting my sights on new land and faces.
“But dreams are bad, dreams are contagious”, the monster told me.
“Don’t follow your dreams, don’t be delusional
listen to me, fold your dream and put it in your pocket.”

And so I did.
I fold it into small and smaller and smallest
aeroplanes
and I shove it deep deep in my pockets.

When I was fifteen, I learnt to wear pants with pockets
spacious enough to store all my dreams
of that Gameboy Advance, that PSP,
of that Clementi chick, that Bedok babe,
of love notes and receipts
of phone numbers on crumpled papers
of tissues and drawings
of friendship and penmanship
of heartbreak and heartache
of beginnings and ends
of God and grace
of words and words

all of it,
I learnt to keep in my pocket.

My Mak also keeps her dreams in her pocket
in her baju butterfly
those humongous pockets
big enough
to store her dream and ours
a lifetime of unfulfilled desires,
her despair, her desperation.

My Mak is a strong woman
She left school at fourteen.
At fifteen, she was the best epok-epok seller in her kampong.
Curry, egg, sardine, veggie,
she had baskets of pastries
and she would sell them all, till her pockets were full,
full of coins and notes and spare change and crumbs.
At night, she would count her blessings,
every cent and every dollar of it
before she goes off to sleep and dream.

My Mak wanted to be a nurse,
the kind that wears a white and blue gown to work
injecting sick kids with laughter
And mad men with renewed meanings to life.
Now, she is a nurse
Working twenty-four hours a day,
Cooking lunch and dinner
And washing clothes in between,
emptying out one pocket at a time.

My Bak also keeps his dreams in his pocket
but it keeps falling out every single time
through the infinite black holes.
He never knew how to sew those holes
so his dreams kept falling out
he could never catch them back.

My Bak is a strong man,
so strong that he never once got angry
so strong that he could work for days without sleep.

My Bak have eye bags so deep,
that the black stress lines could fill up an entire column on the Berita Harian.
I once asked, “Bak I want to know.
Tell me about your childhood, your marriage with Mak, tell me.
I want to know.”
But he only smiled back to me,
as if in kindness, as if in peace.
I once rummaged through his pants for answers while he was deep asleep
and all I found were pink slips of TOTO and 4D results.
His dreams dependent upon the coincidental chance of four magic numbers,
each one of them, numbering up his destiny.

I still keep dreams in my pocket.
I still wear pants with pockets
only now, I go out carrying a bag
so I have more storage, more pockets to fill.
My Mak still wears her baju butterfly.
She is now on her twenty-third hour shift,
an hour more before she can rest
and dream of that white and blue gown that she never got to wear.
My Bak doesn’t wear pants anymore.
He now wears a sarong at home, renouncing his dreams.
I ask him, “Why Bak, why.”
And again, he smiles to me, kindly.
His lips are stuck. He doesn’t know what to answer.
He only whispers, “Fiz, Don’t be like me.”

When I am old and have a son of my own,
I will tell him, “Go and keep your dreams in your pocket, now.
Go make your bed.
Go sweep the floor.
Go find a job.
Go get a life.
Don’t dream. Don’t delay.
Go, go.”

And he will listen to me, he will obey.
He will stomp away and sulk
But he will obey me, and he will listen.
And at night, I’ll read him bedtime stories of Peter Pan,
of Thumbelina, of Cinderella and other lost souls.
Of his Grandma with big pockets to fill
and his Grandpa with holes in his pockets.
I will tuck him into bed, switch off the lights
and let darkness consume his dream.
I will kiss him in the forehead and whisper in his ears,
“Son, wake up.
Go and empty your pockets, now.”

Woman of work

“I was taught since young that love was something you work at. You work at it all your life because that is the greatest work you’ll ever do here on earth.”                                             

– ‘Loud Mouth Loving’

From young, I’ve seen you work. I’ve seen you from washing toilets to washing people’s laundry. I’ve seen you getting up at five in the morning to cook breakfast before you head off to work. I’ve seen you coming back at noon just to wash our clothes, clean the house and most importantly, cook dinner, before you leave again for work and not returning till the clock strikes ten. I’ve seen it all, or so I think.

I’ve heard your stories. Like how you left school and your noble ambition to be a nurse just so that you can start working at fourteen and support your family. Ha, it’s quite ironic that you won’t even allow me to quit school just to support you.

And yet, all these while you’ve been tough with me. You’ve reminded me time and time again that no matter how successful I make myself to be in this arts industry, all of it is useless if I don’t even know how to make my own bed in the morning or scrub the toilet when it gets dirty.

You’ve never once uttered “I love you” to me because unlike me, you never believed in the power of words. You are a woman of work. And all your life, you’ve been working and you will never want to stop working because to love is to work and one should never stop working at it.

Selamat Hari Mak.