Angeline Yap is an award-winning Singaporean poet whose work has appeared in literary publications and textbooks since the 1970’s. Since the 1980's, she has mentored emerging writers in Singapore and served as a speaker at writing events, or judged competitions for young writers. She has also collaborated with artists and writers from the USA, UK and Australia. Her poems have been read over radio and television, at literary festivals, translated into Tamil and Mandarin, and set to music for performance by choirs in Singapore and internationally.
Mary Magdalene, Forgiven Much
because my love is mute
my tears must speak
because my poor dumb lips cannot find words
i press them to your feet
A Mound of Gold
Unobserved, happiness settles
over everything, like a gentle dust;
over the kneading of bread dough,
the peeling of carrots for stew,
over putting a saucer of milk down
for the cat, and running your hand
through the soft prickle
of your boy's crew cut hair;
—you take it in, like the scent of soap
on your husband's fresh-shaved cheek;
like the dog's extravagantly wagging tail,
or the kitten's gravelly mew, and the lick
of his sand-paper tongue.
If you wished, you could try quantifying it;
gathering everything gently into a mound of gold,
using gratitude like a soft-hair brush,
then tipping it out of the tiny balance
and holding it (oh so carefully)
in the hollow of your palm.
Always, it would be
only the very best for this meal.
I watch Mother pick mushrooms
—dried shiitakes for the New Year meal—
each one with its rim unbroken,
each one perfectly round.
“See, they must be creamy white—
Brown like this, don’t take—not fresh.
See, they must be round, like this one—
so the family will have harmony.
See, the flesh must be thick,
And the pattern must be pretty.”
I remember another time, when we were moving house.
Mother said, “Very first thing, you move the rice bin in
—make sure to fill it all the way to the top
—so that you will always have enough to eat.”
This has always been the way of my people.
So the very first thing I brought into my new home
was a really, really full rice bin,
with my bible sitting on its lid.
And as that bible taught, I honoured my Mother,
who wanted for us children, only good things;
whose wish echoed my Heavenly Father’s promise
of good measure, shaken together,
pressed down, and overflowing.
Today, I look at the mushrooms I have picked
for the New Year meal
—each one patterned like a tortoise shell
—each one thick and round,
perfectly formed, completely whole.
to set aside the sandals of the soul and stand unshod.
to live the helpless silence of the babe
to comprehend the greatness of his gift
to enter truth (to let it enter you)
to ask to take the bit upon your tongue
to set the face like flint against the self
to open the palms and yield them to the nails
to walk away from pride
to stand, not with the publican, but in his place
—to make his words your own
to hear yourself whisper,
“O God, have mercy also on me,
for I too am a sinner!”
to know that you are wholly known
—to understand how deeply you are loved
to kneel before the basin
and to let its waters wash your heart
to feel the roughness of the towel on your hands
to feel the feet—to know that they are his
to learn to pray
to become like water
and to let him pour you out
to break the alabaster of the heart
and let your love annoint
his head, his hands, his feet
to humbly ask if you may share his cup
to press the forehead to the upright of his cross
to take him down;
to trace the imprint of the nails
to touch the thorns and let them pierce your heart
I am the cross, I am the crucified
I am the suffering Christ I contemplate;
I am the thorns in his crown
I am the solitary occupant of the unlighted cell; I am the jailer
I am the mother of the starving child
I am the hooker and her client; I am the pimp
I am the husband of the battered wife
I am the daughter of the man who wants a son
I am the addict and his craving; I am his family
I am the rapist and his victim; I am their child
I am the prisoner bound naked to the whipping post;
I am the taunting captor
I am Abel; I am Cain
I am the torturer, the tortured
I am the cross, I am the crucified.
"Mary Magdalene, Forgiven Much", "into silence" and "I am the cross, I am the crucified" were published in Closing My Eyes to Listen (Landmark Books, 2011).
"A Mound of Gold" was first published in Fulcrum—an annual of poetry and aesthetics (USA), No. 1, "A Map of English-language Poetry", 2002.
"Mushrooms" first appeared in Eye on the World, a publication of the Creative Arts Programme.
Linn Shekinah is a writer with fifteen picture books under her belt. Some of the titles include The Watchtower Warrior (MDA’s First Time Writer’s Award), Dou Dou, The Little Imperial Chef (Grand Prize of Samsung KidsTime Award), and The Asian Spice Kids series, supported by the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism. Some commissions include The Fearless Twins and the Magical Kaleidoscope (National Heritage Board) and The Message in the Stars (National Library Board).
the twin brother of Mercy;
radical and bold, the younger brother of the orthodox brother—the Law;
a bountiful display of generosity and humility to my uncle, Religion;
the longsuffering, meek friend to the Pharisees, character assassinators;
a teacher to the teachable, the stubborn and the proud;
labelled as scandalous, cheap;
abused and misunderstood but
takes me as I am—nothing, nobody;
wounded by my uncle’s darts and sword but grows stronger;
not performing habitual rites and rituals; my brother balks!
rearranging the furniture in my heart—a lifelong surgery;
changing my wardrobe, much to the chagrin of my uncle;
putting on the helmet, the breastplate to think His thoughts;
holding my tongue at the heat of an argument;
not reasoning, arguing with my preachy, better-than-thou relations;
turning down the decibels swirling around me;
not sitting on pews; my brother scoffs;
tossing away my glasses, no, gouging out my eyeballs;
rotating His eyeballs in my sockets to see His ways;
awakening my spirit to see the unseen realm;
showing me who I am—my good, my bad;
allowing me to be honest with Him about my struggles;
forgiving my husband, a congenital liar;
suspending my critical, judgmental thoughts;
sheathing me from lies and accusations;
overlooking my wife’s endless grumbles, loving her unconditionally;
forgiving me for cursing my neighbours;
taking my failures in my stride;
extending goodwill; my stick-in-the-mud brother stays put;
strengthening me to look after my child—born with a congenital illness;
teaching me to silence my heart’s cacophony of noises;
leaving my vengeance at His altar;
nudging me to bless my neighbours again and again;
reaching out to the forgotten, the marginalised;
asking a litany of questions surrendered at the altar;
cultivating my patience, waiting for His answers, if ever;
sending me caring loved ones and friends;
triumphing over terminal illness;
redeeming my regrets and mistakes;
forgiving me of jealousy, enviousness of my co-workers;
standing up to detractors in defiant silence, not in defence;
equipping, stretching me to meet the world’s demands and standards;
prompting me to bless my enemies again and again;
encouraging me to give up my ego, my entitlements;
freeing my loved ones from pornography and drug addictions;
befriending new friends, joy and peace;
standing up for the voiceless and faceless;
learning to keep old friends—perfectionism and expectations—at bay;
giving me time to accept who I am;
ditching fear, paranoia and suicidal thoughts;
building up the nameless, the penniless and the unloved;
opening my eyes to relish the summer breeze,
breathing in the autumn colours,
living joyfully through the cold dark nights;
singing lullabies over my soul lover;
skinning SELF alive daily at the Cross;
a costly gift with no price tag;
an indulgent bath in blood, a pool oiled with myrrh and rose;
a resurrected self, stilled in His bosom.