Gwee Li Sui
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).
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
His eyes shining grey
they say so much
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.
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.
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
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,
soul without skin.
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—
As the morning peaks
I hone my techniques,
But I’d sooner pray
To be kept away
From false assurance—
In afternoon heat
I cry and repeat
The names of my God
In even and odd
Syllables, in rounds—
Then my single rule
For the evening cool:
I let my hours
Return their powers
And I ask for peace—
At the close of day
This is how I pray
Before I slumber,
Fail to remember:
Praise to You who gives—
"Meeting God", "The Donkey’s Tale" and "The Hermit" were collected in
Death Wish (Landmark Books, 2017).
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
begin to sigh
of shifting skies
begins to rise
and faltering whispers
in the navel of forgetting
where the emptiness
in this oblivion
under its mantle
and with my tears
a fading You
and only then
i allow myself
a posturing of