Joshua Ip is a Singaporean poet, editor and literary organiser. He grew up in a missionary family. He has published six-ish poetry collections, edited eleven anthologies, and co-founded Sing Lit Station, an over-active literary charity. His latest book, translations to the tanglish (Math Paper Press, 2021) gathers contemporary and anachronistic translations of classical Tang/Song Dynasty poetry. His poetry collection, sonnets from the singlish, won him the Singapore Literature Prize for Poetry. In it is only one capitalized word: “Him.” Joshua can be found at:
the deepest thirst this is: to seek
and not find. throat parched as the hart
pants. long drought in a needy land.
from peaks to arid plains. a desert
thought: depression is a desiccant. or not.
but deep calls—
oh the sound—
gone over me—
can't hear. i think it's past. i drink
my tears. they're stale. oh why so downcast.
the thunder of false piety. it does not pour.
oh this disquiet. I will deny the high hills
and valley low. so dry. echo, echo.
but deep calls to deep—
oh the noise—
all your breakers—
swept over me—
my voice answers me. don't recognise
whose cracked wail is this? i forget.
why, i dredge my slaughter-bones. i slough
the sword of my scorched tongue
from cheek to cheek. why me—why so—where you—?
but deep calls unto deep
at the sound of your waterspouts
all your waves and your billows
are gone over me
and I will—
I will yet—
will yet praise—
yet praise Him.
I am: a sinner. Glory short-faller.
Sheepish stray away-turn-all-er
Meet: my Maker. Non-forsaker.
Faithful and just sin-forgiver.
Government upon his shoulder,
Life-lay-downer. Promised crowner.
Path-straight-maker, great chain-breaker,
My names are made new by my Master:
Non-self-leaning whole-heart truster,
Sin-repenter, deer-like panter,
Pleasing living sacrificer,
All-things doer by He, strength-giver.
This too, a wild wind-chase. I fold my hands,
Hey, two hands full. I sit in the high seat,
Mount the high horse. What profit! Shall I spend
It as a shadow? Look here, wine and meat.
If a tree falls to the north or to the south
Where will it lie? Where it fell—on the ground.
I do not know the right way into town.
The words know the right way out of my mouth.
They laugh and chase the wind, and multiply,
I cannot add or take away from them.
The birds carry them off to testify
In some high court. I watch the wind. I am
Reminded I dug a pit that I will fall
Into tomorrow. This nice snake bit me
Yesterday after I broke a wall.
My own pet snake. There was no charmer’s fee.
Sad people rise up at the sound of birds,
Though it grows faint now. I’m afraid of heights.
The wind carries them off. The teacher writes
In vain the selfsame and so many words.
There’s trouble coming. I find no pleasure in it.
The strong men stoop and the window-lookers dim.
The wise men stop to ponder the infinite
Wisdoms. Suddenly, I remember—
Joshua's favourite verse is Joshua 1:9: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
David Wong Hsien Ming
David Wong Hsien Ming discovered poetry as a child at a Sunday lunch. His work explores the dualities, contradictions and absurdities of being, and has appeared on platforms like Singapore’s Golden Point Award, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore and Mascara Literary Review. His first collection, For the End Comes Reaching, is a meditation on the sense of loss that accompanies each having. More can be found at davidwonghsienming.wordpress.com.
Eschatology, or the loss of a job
Look at the wind, called to tell
of the last word, its breadth gathered
into a tidal weightlessness upon the execution block
—a washed cheek upon its lover’s palm.
There is grief on the skin, which knows
there is no wind in heaven,
that destination’s temporary hands
cannot carry the weight of the journey.
Call loss the price of grace,
if that makes things easier
—what does the skin know, anyway?
Only the smearing of atom upon atom.
Only that being is the only broken thing
that breaks again.
1. Now, so Close to the Birthday of Your Death
Now, so close to the birthday of your death,
the sun selects a ray of light with which to blind a bird
long enough for it to be cleft by a Honda accord.
Call it glitch, frayed cord, misdirected growth
of a bonsai branch, severed not despite of
but because of itself, and yes it was only a pigeon
but its wings shouted with a stark honesty
2. As With the Onetime Childcrime
As with the onetime childcrime
you’d commit, repent of, summarily forget,
when I found a most important thing in the playground
I let it fall with the sand through my fists and feet.
Many places since
I’ve found it again, lost it again.
Every time a frenzied ant
in the tousled hair of Earth.
3. When the World the Startled Octopus
When the world the startled octopus
spits ink over his florid declarations
and rabble rousers build an ark
that becomes the flood itself,
manic he moults to skin too raw
while twice a rooster sings—
its squawkchord feverish melding
his old self into new.
4. All the World a memory
All the world a memory
all her life now
whispered in the street
the bastard sun
after a violent cough
over the remains of hope
and the remains of hate
and the rock she’ll have to push
until the same sun
that let her look love in the eyes
might now help her embalm it.
5. To Betray God
To betray God
you need only kiss him once
between his infinity
and his feet,
watch the enforcers
grant the defender
one righteous lunge
—then trust God
for the rest.