for KK (Talad Wat, Hell's Kitchen, New York City, November 12, 2019)
A canteen stallholder, his mother traded
in futures when she begged the principal
to admit, first, her daughter, then, her son
into Nanyang Primary — two chopsticks to eat.
And father, a cab driver, had a weak heart.
Off the boy sped on the course, Chinese High,
Hwa Chong JC — no need for luck, he scoffed —
Imperial College on a scholarship.
He was too smart for engineering work
and corporate bullshit, so he broke his bond,
borrowing from his parents, still the traders,
and studied fluid dynamics at UIUC.
The multiple nights nagging at a question
with not a clue how to approach it: he
saw in his peers the ease he once possessed;
the face of his dead father in his dreams
he saw, or else while driving down Main Street.
Time to cut his losses. Wall Street called.
Opting for Lehman Brothers (Barclays now)
over Constellation Energy,
he prices futures, the more opaque products.
To model human behavior requires a lot
of right assumptions but it can be done.
The pay is good, some of the work engrossing.
Of course, there are trade-offs, for individuals
as for nations: a software that is quick
will not be accurate. For an instance,
his girl is growing up American.
Not that he feels so much for Singapore
but every night he reads her without fail
a classic Chinese poem to teach the language —
when you left home, you were a pint-sized kid,
when you come home, your hair has grown rice white,
in my own quick and dirty rendering —
so that his daughter can say to his mom
in tones free of error, without a broker,
ni chi bao le ma, at the very least.
By Koh Jee LeongQLRS Vol. 22 No. 1 Jan 2023