‘Picking Up An Old Copy Of Eye On The World’ by Joshua Ip

“We are one-winged angels just learning to fly, riding the piercing sweetness of hope with a pair of dreamer’s wings, shaped of a song tender and tremulous, soaring high into the clear night and waking all the stars to dance, a great golden shower of exuberant exquisite joy.”

– Koh Tsin Yen

Re-reading these old poems, each arch arc
Eroding and meandering, inland sea
Performs an oxbow, stark aeolian harp
Erhu-elides, strings out this sarangi —

All instrumental. Each accent accrues
Lush ornaments, multi-syllabic trips,
Three words were all I needed for haiku —
See my vocabulary, see me flip

Excess to access. Pun-nish privilege,
Vanity mirrors vanity, fair and error
Eke out my youth, a 90s Buttigieg,
Now juvenilia. Yet, hell, let’s sing this aria

Sevenfold, lose count of the iambs, ageless let us decry
And one-winged angels sweep exuberant, exquisite across the sky —


‘The Dance’ by Theophilus Kwek

for Grandmother (1940 – 2017)

This year, he says, there will be no dance. [1] Better to let the old house rest,

its spirits cool, settle themselves down as the earth sleeps fallow. We come

forward with cupped hands, and as the custom is, leave store-bought shoes


[ 1. The third day they’d arrive, wrapped in beating colours,
with their mandarins, excuses for tardiness, drums
to wake a neighbourhood. Always a day of gladness,                                                                                                                              a day for noise, so no-one held it against them;
everybody knew they’d stop at grandma’s gates,
everyone said they weren’t watching but they were.                                                                                                                         The biggest lion in Limau Purut, once a year only,                                                                                                                                   come, come. Eh you, why you want to stay inside? ]


and greetings by the door; make tea, small talk. Set ourselves at home. For

the first time in years [2] I am here, at home for the other New Year, the first

time also she will not join us at the table. Big Uncle takes her place, and as


[ 2. Close enough, but we’d still drive Sunday evenings
to the house for dinner, a quiet living-room affair
with the TV on, the nights long gone                                                                                                                                                      when all of us cousins could squeeze on the swing
without embarrassment. Half the time we’d find her
out in front, wrist-deep, pulling up the bad grass                                                                                                                            from the porch, my own piece of the earth she’d say,                                                                                                                              and with the cold steel of garden scissors close by. ]


the fragrant noodles are served, we fall into usual conversation, of a sort. I

try to remember the scene: the men muscling through the open door, a kind

of fierce purpose in their gold finery, [3] even the wild leaps, the daring falls


[ 3. Only much later that I knew, holding her bright jacket
round her shoulders so it wouldn’t slip, how it was
she’d come to plant herself where she stood, to build                                                                                                                      the house (and all it held) around her, out of nothing,
out of the earth itself, by her knuckles, by her own arms,
her bad knee that made her give up on the garden.                                                                                                                               It was her first time visiting, in the cold climate;                                                                                                                                  and this new orange jacket a gift from your father. ]


of the dance. Do I know what it means, I wonder, to be as they are, so intent

on their work of blessing? Maybe next year, father laughs, which brings me

back to the table, but then I hear the beats outside, know they’re already here.



‘These Little Words’ by Yu Ke Dong

Since he died,
These words have
Become false. I’ve

Lost my faith.
They cannot make
Meaning, the way

A cross cannot
Crack open a
Closed casket, a

Rosary cannot count
Last breaths down
To the bead.

I have begun to
Leave a few syllables
Under your image. Some

Simple sounds, a broken
Clause. Linear offerings of
Stitched-together signs and
Stillborn semiotics, seeking—


There are no temples in
Your name, but I might burn
These prayers on paper so
The smell of crisped consonants
Invokes your presence in print.

I’ll build a Bible in
Bricked blessings, turning my blood
Into clay I’ll anoint thee
Of words and wishes, of
Waylaid writers and wandering wits.

They will not call you
Saint—but my sins will
Make you holy, my discourse
Paint you an exalted marble.

I will raise you in three days.

Today I will
Cleave these words into a clause,
Revel in the rhyme of the line,
Make a stand on the structure of a stanza

Tomorrow I will
Liberate my verse with the slaves
Split the Sea with each synonym and
Enthral followers with each enamelled thought

The day after I will
Sing sonnets in synchronised symphony.
Stick a caesura right in the middle of a sing-song sentence
So that the ballet of the ballad holds its breath—

Gods have not the capacity to perceive your faults and embellish them with their own. They have not the hands with which to write, the hearts with which to bleed, and the blood with which to spill. They have not the propensity to sin, nor to entrap a prayer between two palms, nor to pass secrets between pressed lips.

In the spaces of these pages you are mortal once again—I receive your ageing flesh, your dulling eyes, your greying hair with my promise of a final demise. Split lip and skinned knees, deliciously delicate, you are a sign of the Great Silent Beyond, a one-in-a-million wonder of recycled carbon and dead-star dandruff. I hold your bitten-down nails in my calloused fingers, and feel the skin crack like porcelain.

Pray be faithful
For these are
My last little words.

‘Flight of the Underachieving’ by Jerica Wong

I grasped for what I wanted.
I wanted to wrap my fingers around it,
Pull it towards me.
but my fingers grazed it instead
the fragile sphere of iridescent beauty
only soap and water,
shivered under the sun and
like it was an illusion all along

I tried to grab a butterfly
I missed and tried again
I felt the rapid flutter of its wings
—like the heartbeat of one afraid—
inside my fisted hand

all was still.
I felt its tears on the palm of my hand
unwrapped my fingers to tell it
it was safe with me
but its wings were crumpled,
small intricate body crushed
the tears it bled
felt like acid on my palms
I thought I had captured the butterfly
I had robbed it of its flight.

‘Inside My Head’ by Grace Toh

Sometimes the old nature rises again
And I want to use barbed words to deflect the pain—
But a gentle Voice tells me to step back and wait,
And think: Am I taking a step towards hate?

So maybe this person’s completely at fault
And deserves a small thrashing—or maybe a lot;
But when I bare teeth sharpened inside my head,
Will I become the monster I detest, instead?

It’s hard to keep silent, to swallow the blow;
It’s hard to feign ignorance, although you know;
But it’s much harder still to take back the words said,
And impossible to retract wounds that were made.

Every choice that I make lays the path for another;
What I choose becomes easier and what I don’t, harder.
So I’ll take the blame for my own future state
And I’ll choose to choose keeping mum, rather than hate.

‘Time to Rhyme’ by Grace Toh

There came a time
I feared to rhyme;
I feared to hatch
A sound that’d match.
In every poem I failed to write
Potential fires I feared to light
Came bursting in on me again
And burnt my thoughts in poetic pain.
Great poems, thought I, in foolish fear
Are too noble to fit in mere
Quatrains, rhyme schemes, what-have-you,
And iambic pentameter too.
A good poem goes out of line;
Makes statements way before its time;
Defies conventions; burns the book!
And takes on many a bizarre look;
How could I then with simple rhymes
Write poems lasting through the times?

It took a month of writer’s block
Before I realised that the lock
Upon my writing wasn’t rhyme;
It wasn’t shifts in paradigm;
The answer shook me up a lot:
The problem was in rhyming NOT!

So fellow writers if you feel
The urge to match and rhyme at will;
Go right ahead,
Don’t stop instead;
Forget the time—
Just rhyme.

‘What’s a Good Poem?’ by Grace Toh

So what’s a good poem,
And how does it start?
Does it enter your head
Or lodge in your heart?
Must it never have rhyme,
And never be short,
And must it be full of
The subtlest thought?
Must it always use words
Many syllables long;
Must it never be simple
And sweet as a song?
Must it always use images
Mere simple men
With their mere simple reading
Cannot comprehend?

Oh, what’s a good poem?
Please tell me, I pray
Or my mediocre skill
Will be squandered away
For my poems touch friends
But they cannot touch judges
So what’s a good poem?
The question begrudges.

‘Fragments of Ethel’ by Tan Jiayan

The following documents a woman’s thoughts in her final moments.

Haven’t smelled that in too long.
10 years, maybe. No, 20.
Smells like…
Grave coldness. Michael Jackson’s tragedy.
Did it feel like this
coming to an end?
Third grade. Broken colour pencils.
Infancy. Missing dummy. Struggling parent.
Dragging my dad up from the beauty of drowning in the Alcohol Pacific.
Ha! Feels like just a day has passed since!
Old habits die hard.
It’s like some horror show! Their glassy eyes.
Disbelieving grimace.
The claw of scrutiny I hated.
Still do.
Primal outcry, emitted from my collapsing lung.
Ah, Australia. Hometown. Ground so flat you can see prairies
on the other side of the state.
Tubes in my nostrils…who’s that man weeping?
He seems like a nice one. Down-to-earth. A natural.
It’s a disgrace water has to stream down his cheek
like that.
Flash of amber. Prick, numbness, pain.
My ribs kill. Like a serpent making its mark on a youthful face.
I remember Mum holding up my hair as I vomited.
Bad times, good days.
Wanted to travel the world but you only have about 6 decades
until it starts diminishing, dragging downhill.
Where does time go?
I would’ve took Mum’s photograph around the world,
so she could soak up joy too. Feel it sinking into her lungs.
Watch her childhood on the farm play out in front of her, like a movie.
Regrets. Always bitter, always helpless.
Fifteen. Nearly got hit by a car. Blood alcohol maybe 0.29.
Dashed into the street at a vermillion light.
The world goes on,
it goes off. Make it stop.
Feels like the fabric of reality is tearing.
I love that smell! Basil lime, right? Mum’s favourite.
Is it a dream? I’m weightless. I see
Mum, on the other side of the railway.
Reaching for cornflakes on the cereal aisle.
Too petite to reach it.
So real, so close…almost as if I could reach out and feel the thud of her pulse.
Yet to speak would be to violate the rules of her world and mine.
She’s got those exhausted, lifeless eyes.
Am I seeing things?
Unpaid mortgage. Loan sharks at the door. Coffee shops an escape.
I might be sick. I am sick. I should call Dr. White.
And there are fragmented rays of light.
Where’s the man? He’s married, saw it on a ring finger.
To whom? They must be lucky.
The coal dust flies all over the room.
It choke me, engulfs me, embraces me.
Always wondered about oblivion.
Too tired to open my eyes. Blink, blink. Shut.
Someone’s straggling my lungs. Pushing my heart
               into a mess of phlegm. It feels awful.
Titanic requested for help hours before it sank. Nobody came. Final message at 2.17am.
Mum! I am coming. Have you made things up with Dad?
Hope it all worked out fine.
Haven’t seen you in 57 years. We’ve got a lot to catch up on.
When I get better we’ll listen to that band on restless evenings, lacklustre afternoons.
Yes, the ache and agony melt away with your touch.
Lightning in a bottle, breaking out. Eating away at my knuckles.
Never knew darkness could be blinding.
Peace. Dreamlike state. Floating above the binds of sorrow.
Mother, I am

‘You’ve Never Really Been an Epiphany Sort Of Person’ by Sulastri Noordin

You’ve never really been an epiphany sort of person.
Things came to you in dribs and drabs.
I know, because I was there.
In school races you walked to the finish line, because you didn’t see the point.

Then there was that horse story your daddy told.
I don’t know if it was a prize horse, or a fed-up horse, or where on earth it was, really,
but I know you asked which leg got hurt, which leg exactly, and speaking of legs, what did your daddy do if the people at the morgue where he used to work were too long to fit into their ice boxes?

You were a barricade between your parents on many sleepless nights, hell bent on forever being the only child in their universe.

Even then, you had a bad feeling that parents shouldn’t be left alone, unsupervised.

In the small pauses where your dad had to think about the next gap in his story, you rubbed your foot against the uneven
bedroom wall. That part is yellow now.

Later, when words became hot rocks at “home” that we flung at one another
and you hated the nothing happening quiet of the night
but loved the streetlights,
you went to a bookstore and you picked the biggest book with the smallest font.
It was the life of someone. Somebody powerful.

You turned the book over and put it on your head, a heavy papery tent.
Man… you had a major headache that first day, thanks to font size 9. You didn’t understand what inflation was, or why people wrote “white papers” (it had to mean more than the colour of usual paper, right?), but you understood power.

You weren’t waiting for Prince Charming like the regular children. You wanted to be Prince Charming—it cut out the waiting time.

On the occasions when you feel like touching people now, they turn to inky paper in your hands. And you complain.

But that’s what happens, my love, and it’s not your fault, when the only practice with people you have is on paper.