Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Moving On

15 February 2013 Leave a comment

Moving On

It’d been awhile. But, perhaps, he wondered, it only seemed that way and felt that way, that feeling of the stretch of the memory to a time full of the voices of the friends who were now far across the world, or working sixteen-hour days. He remembered hearing, “You’ll be okay.” He thought he was.

I posted this 55-word piece of microfiction for the 2013 All In! Young Writers Festival. I was prompted to do so after I read the ones an old friend of mine posted for it.

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Light Through A Window

16 June 2011 1 comment

‘Ours is a well-lit city.’

I’ve thought these words often; I think them again as I fold my arms tighter in the compressor-cooled air of the last bus for the night. The upper deck is, unsurprisingly, empty – and colder for it. Outside the window, the lights are orange, and the uniform curve in the neck of each Lycorpole street-lamp is something I’d like to think I can be counted on to recognize. It is a notion of home that is as perfect and elemental as any I’ve ever dreamt of, and yet, also, I think, this notion of home is something I’ve grown into rather than away from.

It was on these orange city streets that I used to run in the night-time, an escape at an age when I had too many thoughts and not enough privacy. There were other nights, some of my happiest being those I spent in search of supper after playing a concert, when we would stroll around Holland Village or City Hall, all the while chatting happily or tiredly while the decision made itself. More recently, these were the streets I missed when, in barracks on a darker, off-shore island, I’d dream of Singapore city and how I’d spend my first soldier’s wage.

‘Ours is a well-lit city,’ I think, as my night bus wends its way back home through the mostly empty but still illuminated streets. Behind the window, in cold air and warm light, it is easy to dream.

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Newton’s Laws

29 April 2011 Leave a comment

I. Accelerate

Engines run: there is work done
When we travel. I run
Across the platform. Doors
Are closing: . . . . . . .

So we progress. There is work done,
Or so I reckon; there is work done
When we travel. So we progress

And we regress. I run
Across the platform, an engine running
Back. Please mind
__ the gap.

II. Idle

‘Your reckoning is excellent. I –
Sum this up for me, will you?’
Very well: this is
_____________ the sum. This is
How engines run, and thoughts
Run parallel; how they travel! In a day
More than I could reckon. But this,

The sum
Of our trajectories: the sum
I reckon where I rest, where I rest;
They come to rest, here
On the shape
Of you.

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Exposition | Escape

13 September 2010 Leave a comment

He woke at 8 a.m. sharp on a holiday

in the hope that an early start would be enough to make for a good day.

because the first trap was inertia; this he considered the night before, when he set the alarm.

Setting off was a joy to him. Out of the gate

and into the world.

he could be a free man. or pretend to be one.

‘Good morning, River Valley,’ he thought

as he walked. The prospect of breakfast beckoned.

to himself. He began to make plans.

Categories: Vagaries, Writing Tags:

More Subtil Than Any Beast

11 August 2010 1 comment

First, a disclaimer: I hesitated about whether to post this because it involved weaving words of my own into the Word proper. The phrases I used intact came exclusively from Genesis 1-3 and Genesis 5:5, and one would do well to return to the words recorded there; I have added on to the verses, and more often I have omitted them, but the text in its entirety is available here and elsewhere. My words are mutable, but the Word is immutable.


What follows is my tailored retelling of the Creation and what is known as the Fall of Man. I have divided it into seven segments, with the action unfolding in I, III, V and VII, and a parallel conversation unfolding somewhat less linearly in II, IV and VI. (I acknowledge that you humor me as I speak of lines concerning a narration of Creation, the event in which both time and space came to be.) It was a night’s work, and that is easy enough to justify; the odd segments were almost entirely lifted, and all I did was add on to the original verses and omit those which didn’t bear directly on the image I had in mind, whereas the even (odd-er?) segments were almost entirely reflexive, and also, of course, stylistically precedented.

I have mentioned an image I had in mind, as well as reflexes that I had. As these things are more readily ascribable to me, I shall try to explain and qualify my transcribed script. The image I had in mind was that of the serpent seeking out the Woman in the garden; as far as its words and the act it was performing were deliberate, it was a reaching out to an end. The problem was in the fathoming of those ends, which would have been vain to attempt if I were a mere beast, but which I attempted, and not in the hope of anything but understanding: and that is precisely the danger, for if there is any moral to be drawn, it is that the Knowledge was perilous. The other irony is that the serpent was distinguished from the beasts of the field by its ‘subtil’-ity, and that we were by knowledge, and later the desire of further Knowledge; I have had the odd thought that, perhaps, the desire for knowledge beyond what I already knew, and especially that desire for others beyond what they knew, was an expression of a serpent-like subtility. I find this irony difficult to accept, but I find it even harder to ignore, hence this retelling. As to the matter of the reflexes that gave rise to segments II, IV and VI, the explanation is somewhat simpler; in drawing from the account of the origins of the heavens and the earth and everything in and above it, I had to narrow my lens to the area I was considering, and hence I decided that I would need to place Man in a kind of hierarchy. This hierarchy is  conjecture only, and one would do better to look to the Word directly for authority.

This foreword was written last, in the light of what had been produced and what I had experienced. The process did not involve a conception followed by a bringing-to-fruition. I feel more honest saying that I started with what was evident and worked backwards and around from there.


I. Of Temporality

In the beginning, there was God. God created the heaven and the earth.

The earth was without form, was timeless, was void.

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water, and there was motion.

As time flowed, God set the work of Creation in it. In time, He received it, and looked upon all that He had done, and saw that it was good.

II. Of Angels

~ When in time did the angels stand, or are they out of it? Were they living souls, knowing good and evil? Were they made from the seed of the tree of life, or were they partakers of its fruit? Were they placed, or do they stand, knowing passion?

~ Well?

≈ I think there is passion, if not the passion of mortality, of life-with-death.

III. Of Soul

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, every plant of the field, and every herb of the field; and there was not a man to till the ground of the field.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

The LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

IV. Of Man

≈ We were created, woman and man, in the same breath, and of the same life.

~ But there was man and there was woman, and woman gave the fruit, and man hearkened, and took the fruit, and ate.

≈ After they ate, their eyes were opened that they could rue their fate.

~ And then did they wonder if man would have taken, and woman hearken to his call?

≈ You ask me what I would know of you.

V. Of Knowing

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field, and he said unto the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said – ‘ and also, ‘Hath God said of every tree?’

The serpent also said, ‘Ye shall not surely die,’ and, ‘Ye shall be as gods,’ and waited.

And when the woman saw that it was a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.

And the eyes of them were opened, knowing good and evil, as gods know good and evil.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field, but life was not in knowledge, and the knowledge was bitter to those who had sight.

VI. Of Dust

≈ Of what I am, and from whence I came, that I know.

~ But I, bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh, have conceived in sorrow.

≈ In sorrow I have eaten all the days of my life.

~ We have known sorrow, but will we know sleep?

≈ From whence I came, I shall return; but I do not know death, if it is sleep.

VII. Of Mortality

The LORD God sent the man forth from Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken, and he placed at the east of the garden Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.

And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

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In Hope

2 August 2010 Leave a comment

To my relentless consciousness
(If only to prove that I
Can logic defy),

I refuse to stop myself
From undermining me;
I determine that tomorrow I
Will be worse off.

I want to be justified
By not having needed justification.

For all that, this could be
My attempt
At moderation through excess.

Yet my refusal
Is not a retreat,
Is a hell-ward headlong rush to prove
That I am not sinking.

I need to feel
Like I needed this.

In the hope of a new course,

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Shop-house on New Bridge Road, c. 2010

20 November 2009 Leave a comment

Sergeant Derek, in military dress, has just stepped off the train. He is deciding whether to head northeast or to take the walk home. The iPod goes into the small, useful-looking brown canvas pouch slung at his hip. He slings his black duffel on his other shoulder and sets off in another direction altogether.

He surfaces at one of those other exits, this one near the beginning of Chinatown. He knows there is a bus stop somewhere ahead and veers in that direction, but after a few steps he decides he is quite hungry.

By now, he is a little further down the road, and he sees possibility in the sprawl of tables overflowing onto the already narrow-ish sidewalk. Some of the tables are occupied. Only one of the four shop-houses is open.

With three days of having eaten oily canteen food in mind, he ignores the incongruously offered nasi padang, chicken cutlet and oyster omelet, and orders pei dan chok. There are steamable-looking fish swimming around in the tanks near the entrance of the coffee shop, but Sergeant Derek isn’t feeling quite that adventurous, despite how his feet have carried him to where he is. There is a table by the wall.

As he waits for his porridge, Sergeant Derek wishes he had a camera, or, alternatively, prodigious writing talent. He is trying to put his finger on what strikes him about his surroundings, but he can’t quite manage it, so he starts with the apparent. His table is by the wall, and on the wall there are three rows of framed black-and-white newspaper clippings and photographs. They have captions like ‘South Bridge Road with Elgin Bridge in the background, 1941’ and ‘New Bridge Road, circa 1960’. The wall is browned and watermarked, but the prints are new. The frames are black plastic, like those on Sergeant Derek’s spectacles.

His food arrives. They are generous with the you tiao, and he tries one. It is a bit too soft, and he decides he won’t finish the bowl. On the other hand, the porridge tastes good. He suspects the you tiao would have been better earlier in the day.

There is a Channel 8 drama on TV, one of those current ones with young, smiling actors. ‘Channel 8 drama’ used to mean something else, and Sergeant Derek has the strange feeling that the drama on TV is an intruder on the space of the coffee shop, the only thing out of character, or from the wrong era. That was strange as well, because he realizes that everything else in the shop couldn’t exactly be said to match either. The shelf of wooden pigeonholes (eight by eight) for food orders clipped with wooden pegs was next to the Super Cold beer fridge, at -6.1ºC according to the digital readout. The double row of grease-yellowed power sockets were connected to a closed-circuit television system as well as electric altar candles. He is struck by the lack of concept, and struck again by how ridiculous the notion was. What a ridiculous character, this notional Derek in smart No. 4.

He is nearly done with his porridge. They were generous with the century eggs too, and he doesn’t finish the last one. He closes his notebook.

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