Yong Shu Hoong
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 drama—only 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.
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?
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.
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.
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 me—my love transmutable
only by the whitest flames.
"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
Ho Kin Yunn is a writer by trying. His work has appeared in Cha, Singapore Unbound, Anima Methodi, Atelier of Healing, SingPoWriMo, 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.
Go to a length while keeping the measurements
Clearly as the well draws deep and drinking-just
Just someone else’s, borne Sumerian stone and weather
The known virgin faithful to divine camel, still draws water
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.