Yong Shu Hoong

Contributor Biography

Yong Shu Hoong has authored six poetry collections. Frottage (2005) and The Viewing Party (2013) both won the Singapore Literature Prize (SLP), while his latest collection, Right of the Soil (2018), was shortlisted for SLP 2020. He is one of the four co-authors of The Adopted: Stories from Angkor (2015) and Lost Bodies: Poems Between Portugal and Home (2016).

Question of Faith

Was it within the labyrinth of pews

that you’d first found me? Perhaps,

while I sat, trying to figure out how
Father, Son and Spirit could be One.
For the other pupils, the small chapel
was a playhouse for pranks and racing.
But you’d singled me out, the quiet one.
And with no dramaonly the felt tip

of a 4pm ray of sun. Still, were you not

at all chaffed when I, after examining
cisterns by the entrance, wondered
if mosquitoes breed in holy water?
Lapsing from the Catholic upbringing

in my primary school, I have since 

been baptised by a Presbyterian pastor
in front of a more minimalist cross,
but never stopped praying it was faith,
alone, that murdered all my questions.

Hymn

I. 

Towards the end of the service 

during Grandfather’s wake, the pastor 

led us in music, as we walked around 

the open coffin. I’d clean forgotten 

about the songs we sang that day, until 

I heard again this album by Johnny Cash, 

My Mother’s Hymn Book

 

Never grow old, 

where we’ll never grow old. 

In a land where we’ll never grow old. 

 

Is the land anything like Dyess, Arkansas, where 

Cash grew up, working the family cotton fields, 

singing along with his parents and siblings

despite the Great Depression and, in 1937,

the floodwater five feet high and rising? 

II.

Back in April 22, 1914, when James Cleveland Moore, Sr. 

first composed the song, he was thinking of his father

leading the singing in their home church in Draketown, 

Georgia. His father’s voice failing, because of age.  
 

III.

 

Recently there have been too many funeral wakes 

for me to attend, and again this song floats into mind.

 

Never grow old, 

where we’ll never grow old. 

 

The man in black, already departed, 

his voice deep and gravelly against 

the vibration of guitar strings, 

is singing with a youthful lilt.

Taliesin

In memory of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959)
 

Pardon me if I am to you 

an “inferior desecrator”. I do 

what I can with hallowed space 

 

And this abode, for all 

it’s worth, is my refuge. 

 

Outside this fortress 

in the sky, I view the transfiguration 

of clouds through stained windows 

 

A silver prairie, rolling

above all the chaos, as 

my city burns. 

 

I think not of the Mayan temple 

of sacrifice you’d advocated. Mine 

is a crypt of no theatre. A retreat that 

takes on the memory of an antiquated 

Cambridge dorm I once stayed a week, 

or the illusion of a Cornwall B&B (sans

waves) or a Unitarian church you 

might have built. I breathe in silence.

 

Here, I worship I read I dream I write. 

I stuff an in-progress manuscript 

in a prominent place, in case of force majeure. 

 

Am I ready to get burnt to be reborn,

continuous with the land?

 

This is my Taliesin, walls of no stucco 

or render, marking out my 915 square feet 

that enclose me at the centre of cardinal 

directions. This is home. My last bastion 

against a world off-kilter, defending 

what defines memy love transmutable 

only by the whitest flames.

Author's Note:

"Question of Faith" was first published in Tumasik: Contemporary Writing from Singapore (Autumn Hill Books, International Writing Program at the University of Iowa and the National Arts Council of Singapore, 2009) before appearing in the author’s poetry collection, From Within the Marrow (Firstfruits Publications, 2010).

Ho Kin Yunn

Contributor Biography

Ho Kin Yunn is a writer by trying. His work has appeared in ChaSingapore UnboundAnima Methodi, Atelier of HealingSingPoWriMo, and Food Republic:

A Singapore Literary Banquet, among others. Since 2014, he has been working

at Wiley in different capacities, from editorial to content management.   

Bethuel’s affirmation

Go to a length while keeping the measurements

Clearly as the well draws deep and drinking-just

                                                        Don’t expect

                                                        Exactitudes

                                                        Hold down

                                                        Expectations

                                                        Whether she

                                                        Arrives

                                                        Whether He

                                                        Answers

                                                        Treat it

                                                        As science

                                                        Till erratum

                                                        Till Bethuel

                                                        Acquiesces

                                                        Till tautness

                                                        Frays

                                                        But faith

                                                        Pales depth

                                                        Assume the

                                                        Well drains

                                                        Adhering to

                                                        Some length

                                                        Just someone else’s, borne Sumerian stone and weather

                                                        The known virgin faithful to divine camel, still draws water

Author's Note:

The poem explores the idea of a well, visited. A sign of faith for some, a dried up resource for others. Who owns it may matter. Who operates its crank handle may also matter. Most importantly, it's about how we handle what it gives us.