Gwee Li Sui

Contributor Biography

Gwee Li Sui is a poet, a graphic artist, and a literary critic. His seven works of

verse include Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? (1998), One Thousand and

One Nights (2014), Death Wish (2017), and This Floating World (2021). He wrote Singapore’s first full-length graphic novel in English, Myth of the Stone (1993),

which was reprinted in a twentieth-anniversary edition. He has produced Singlish translations of books by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Beatrix Potter. A familiar name in Singapore’s literary scene, Gwee has written on a range of cultural subjects. His nonfiction titles include Spiaking Singlish (2018) and FEAR NO POETRY!: An Essential Guide to Close Reading (2014).

Meeting God

I have a hunch
what God wants from me

is to buy Him lunch.
I think He is asking me

with His eyes
for some meat
and a bowl of rice. 

 

I feel it as an issue

how God is out all day

selling tissue.
His eyes shining grey

they say so much
of tenderness
I dare not touch.

The Donkey’s Tale

Something plucked me, still dripping
of mother at the mouth,
and yanked me through a scorched patch.

I heard hoofsteps and there was,
before me, someone like the boy
who cleaned me daily but bigger.
We moved with little sound
except when he would be talking.
I presumed how there was someone
else beside me I could not see;
my eyes were, after all, still young. 

 

Not long later when we stopped,
a man like any other came up
and rubbed my face. I shook off
his coarse hand and it made him laugh.

Then he went behind and a sudden weight

fell on my back. New to a burden,

my legs caved, but I struggled well
to keep straight. Then I was pulled again

along a way that soon grew noisier
and noisier and I saw branches bow

before me as I trudged on them. 

 

It has been many years now, but
I cannot forget that first time I was

ridden. Many have sat on me since,
but it is that short journey that still stirs.

Sometimes life starts us with a bang
and then keen memory alone helps
us to survive the rest of our days.

The Hermit

God willing,
you will look into the Infinite Eyes
and find what your hundred million breaths

in solitude are drawing you into. 

 

Many revelations ago,
your city had dissolved into a wilderness.

The old language hung dry upon your tongue

and the mirages of this world
burnt up your senses. You thirsted. 

 

Right now,
you are wondering if you are losing your mind

from cladding it too long in camel’s hair.
By stalking simplicity, you have fallen
into a deep hole and now find yourself
among the quiet of the poor. 

 

The real lesson is beginning at last.

There is one more thing to forsake.

God is a Virus

The tongue licking

a dry well wets the soul

but cannot know how to fill it.

In the long night, I have

to learn and re-learn

that I am already infected

for an age.

 

I have slept a dream

of good, drunk of its light,

lived until the windows crack

from the pecking

and the burning of days.

My eyes yellow from

desire’s loss.

 

O You who are in me

ever among nothings,

who flake with my seasons

and pick at my red scabs—

You who long ago dived

into my blood as

a living sickness—

lift me from

my delusions of health

and take me into Your terror.

Unhinge me and at last

make me only weakness,

serene receptivity,

soul without skin.

Pandemic Prayers

I.

At the start of day

This is how I pray:

I draw in my breath

From the house of death

            For the roads of life—

II.

As the morning peaks

I hone my techniques,

But I’d sooner pray

To be kept away

            From false assurance—

III.

In afternoon heat

I cry and repeat

The names of my God

In even and odd

            Syllables, in rounds—

 

IV.

 

Then my single rule

For the evening cool:

I let my hours

Return their powers

            And I ask for peace—

 

V.

 

At the close of day

This is how I pray

Before I slumber,

Fail to remember:

            Praise to You who gives—

Author's Note:

"Meeting God", "The Donkey’s Tale" and "The Hermit" were collected in

Death Wish (Landmark Books, 2017).

Aldo Joson

Contributor Biography

Originally from the Philippines, Aldo Joson works as a sustainability operations manager for a leading producer of fibre, pulp and paper products. Prior to moving to Indonesia in 2021, he worked in Singapore for more than a decade as a senior management consultant for various MNCs, as well as the Government of Singapore. His musical compositions have been sung by choirs around the region, including the SYC Ensemble Singers of which he was a former member. Aldo has an M.A. in Philosophy from NUS and a Business Sustainability Management Certificate from the University of Cambridge.

now that night has come

now 

 

that night 

has come

 

now 

that light 

has gone 

to sleep

now 

that dusk 

has won

the moon 

o'er head 

begins 

to weep

 

now 

that night 

has come

now 

that light 

has passed 

once more

now 

that twilight's 

done

these tides 

of time 

seek distant 

shores

 

and as 

the day 

moves on,

and on,

and on,

 

through 

strands 

and sands

of thoughts

and sheets 

and fleets

of songs

and as 

the day 

moves on

and on,

and on,

 

find 

that 

am 

lost

 

now,

i pray.

now, 

i ask.

let 

me 

rest;

leave 

me 

be.

 

will 

stay.

will 

be.

will 

drown

in 

this sweet 

reverie;

 

and as 

the stars

begin to sigh

through

aching shades

of shifting skies

and as 

the light

begins to rise

 

i turn 

to face 

the night

 

with strength

with hope

with life

 

Your love, 

Your light—

are 

what 

find

 

now 

 

that night 

has come.

amidst

amidst

 

callous echoes

and faltering whispers

i

find myself

 

lost

 

in the navel of forgetting

where the emptiness 

lulls

my cradle—bereft

 

in this oblivion

i stand—

 

under its mantle

i weep

 

and with my tears

i see

 

a fading You

 

then

 

and only then

 

i allow myself

 

a posturing of

hope.